On Wednesday, November 9, 2016, I think it is safe to say that we all woke up to an America that looked more divided than we had thought.
Overnight, a supposed chasm yawned open between our varied and diverse communities; a wedge jammed stubbornly between the elite and the working class, rural and urban, right and left, white people and people of color. And although I knew this change of that magnitude couldn’t possibly happen as fast as overnight, I still mourned, not for the election results but for the idea of an America I thought we’d lost. I worried that we’d lost track of each other’s stories and experiences. I feared that conversations and relationships wouldn’t be enough to close the gap between us. I wondered whether what divides us was becoming more potent than what unites us.
But then, I considered my experience, and all the things that I know from working at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon—and it was there that I found hope.
Over the past ten years, PHFO has crisscrossed the state working to bring about a hunger-free Oregon, and in doing so, we’ve met all kinds of people who share in our mission to end hunger in the state. In Lebanon, we met Amy, a single mom who struggles to provide her daughters with the fresh fruits and vegetables they crave, and chose to share her story to advocate for policy change. In Stanford, Cecili and Susan started a free summer meal site at their library. In Baker City, we met Jessica, who works hard to make the school meals in her community accessible and healthier for her students. And, in Portland and the Willamette Valley, 17 remarkable people made a commitment to dedicate nine months of their year to developing their own leadership skills to further the anti-hunger movement.
The Oregon we know is unified by hard work, whether it is the master gardener tending to her community’s school garden past dusk, or the community in Woodburn organizing to elect Teresa Alonso Leon, the first Latina immigrant legislator in the state. The Oregon we know is unified by care for one another, whether it is the legislature allocating state funds to make school lunch free for all the kids that need it, or creating a mobile summer meal site to make sure lunches are available to kids all through the summer. The Oregon we know is unified by building a stronger community, whether it is through organizing a listening session, or the local school food service director making a quiet decision to serve school breakfast free to all kids and after the bell, ensuring that no child feels ashamed for eating breakfast at school.
The Oregon we know is star-studded with everyday leaders all across the state, normal people working in seemingly small but empirically powerful ways to improve not only the food security, but also the overall well-being and strength of their communities. They do this work not because of their political values or who they voted for, but because they care about their community and the people that live there.
They simply want everyone to be able to put good food on the table at the end of the day.
That’s a value we can all agree on.
Please consider making a donation this holiday season. Let's work together to end hunger in Oregon.