Hunger-Free Oregon Highlights for 2020

Ensuring Food Access During a Pandemic


Like everyone else, the team at Hunger-Free Oregon had to redirect our attention when the pandemic arrived in our state. But, our commitment to our essential vision never wavered. Everything our team worked for during this past year was an extension of our existing programs and activities – working to ensure access to food for all.

Hunger rates began to spike immediately – seen in the urgent needs at food banks, in schools, and in long waits to sign up for SNAP. By May 2020, the rate of hunger in Oregon had doubled – nearly one million Oregonians now struggled with hunger, compared to half a million in 2019.

We continue to live through this global pandemic, which has exposed the fraught nature of our too-thin safety net.

We are buoyed with hope seeing the changes government agencies have made to increase access to food that will continue throughout 2021. And, we are humbled by the ongoing need, especially among those who have been excluded (intentionally or not) from programs of support including unodcumented Americans, the LGBTQIA+ community, those who are houseless, and Black and Indigenous people of color.

Thank you to all of our partners who stepped up during the last year to advance this work: from longtime donors who gave generously to brand-new donors; volunteers who worked from home to help us; corporate partners and foundations who made generous grants, most of them unrestricted or dedicated to all COVID-19 response. And thank you to the incredible staff at Hunger-Free Oregon who worked tirelessly this past year.


1. Our website originally hosted the only comprehensive list and map of where to access meals for students – created within 4 days of the school closure announcement.

2. Raising around $250,000 and distributing funds to support school meals during the pandemic

We worked with the Department of Education to distribute $100,000 in May to schools that were running out of PPE and school lunch packing supplies, due to delivering meals, and were facing having to close down meal delivery services.

We transitioned our annual Summer Meal Support Fund to an Emergency Fund response and collected applications from nonprofit and school partners. Within 2 months, we distributed $100,000 in small grants 25 organizations to support their work feeding students during the summer.

These partners helped serve meals to approximately 4,000 students every day during the summer!

“Our children are very excited to see their bus drivers, their teachers and even an assistant principal who has delivered meals to their home. Families are so appreciative.” -Gervais School District personnel

3. Advocating for and winning the creating a NEW program called Pandemic EBT to help families with school age children! And working to ensure all families received the news.

Pandemic EBT sends debit cards to families whose children would normally be receiving free school meals, to help with increased grocery costs.

We created a toolkit in 8 languages for schools and districts to use to share the news with families so they were aware of the help coming. We answered countless questions from partners and from families. And we worked with more 2,000 partners to distribute the toolkit!

Our Community Food Justice team continues to work on this project as the benefits have been extended once again, to make sure families are aware of this benefit & can access it.

4. Listened to community members most impacted and advocated for changes to SNAP to increase access during the pandemic.

Transitioned our SNAP Community Advisory Board to virtual meetings and provided members with technology access, as needed

Engaged in robust advocacy at the beginning of the pandemic so people could sign up for SNAP without in-person visits, and to decrease backlog of applications

Advocated for and won increased benefits for some SNAP participants

5. In the midst of a pandemic and working from home, we dedicated ourselves to anti-racism work internally. Pushed by staff of color to invest in this work, we hired two consultant facilitators, and we spent three weeks in the summer and currently dedicate one day per week to internal restructuring.

We are currently working with Melody Martinez and Simon Mont for this work, and we highly recommend both of them!

After six months of intensive anti-racism work internally, we collectively passed two new policies about how to improve our workplace culture and accountability.

We implemented monthly calls to check-in with each other on a deeper level and address microaggressions or other conflicts, and repair relationships.

Collectively, we decided to transition away from a traditional hierarchy and began that process, which will continue for the next 6-12 months. We adopted a model of circles (borrowing some elements from the holocracy model) that will encourage more collaboration.

Started to work on a new policy to address disparities in wages and pass a new compensation policy that outlines our values as an organization and our commitment to all of our team members.

Read on for more of our impact from 2020. Or skip down to read about our goals for 2021


First two weeks


Our website originally hosted the only comprehensive list and map of where to access meals for students – created within 4 days of the school closure announcement.

As schools closed, the team at Hunger-Free Oregon directly supported school staff, especially nutrition directors, to create and implement workable plans to feed children outside of school. This was a huge lift! We were proud to be part of many partners working to ensure that the first week school wasn’t open, the majority of schools were serving meals to students remotely.

Our website originally hosted the only comprehensive list and map of where to access meals for students – created within 4 days of the school closure announcement.


Hosted a webinar for more than 300 organizations across Oregon about how to access food during the pandemic; and another webinar for 50 legislators on the urgent needs.

Created, and continue to maintain, an updated COVID-19 Food Access page in English and Spanish, with links to apply for SNAP as well as information on WIC, Meals on Wheels, and school meals. It has been viewed more than 50,000 times!


Transitioned our SNAP Community Advisory Board to meet virtually, providing them with technology as needed. The members advocated for the needs of SNAP participants to be able to access benefits without in-person interviews, and to remove other barriers to participation.

April – July 2020


Supported school’s transition to summer meals. Advocated successfully for the government to remove barriers to serving summer meals in every community.

Successfully advocated with Congress, the USDA and the state to launch a brand-new program called “Pandemic EBT” to compensate families for money spent feeding their children who would have had breakfast and lunch at school.

We wrote, translated, and shared a communications toolkit in 8 languages to ensure information reached families. Collaborated with more than 2,000 partners to distribute the toolkit.

Raised and awarded more than $200,000 in small grants to schools, districts, and nonprofits to buy needed equipment such as PPE or pay staff, including bus drivers, to operate meal delivery or pick-up services throughout the summer.


Advocated for SNAP benefits to increase and become easier to apply for, through the passage of federal COVID relief, dozens of USDA waivers and state policy changes.


Launched a new cohort of 20 grassroots nonprofits statewide to support people signing up for SNAP, focusing on culturally-specific and BIPOC-led groups to reach the most marginalized communities. Completed in partnership with Oregon Food Bank, and included grants given to each nonprofit.


Took 3 weeks as a staff, led by two consultants, to begin to examine our internal structures and how we could advance toward becoming a truly anti-racist organization.

August – September


Supporting the return to a hybrid or online learning environment. Advocated to extend waivers so schools can serve all students free meals for the rest of the school year, and meals can be picked-up or delivered to students learning virtually.

Won a year-long extension of P-EBT and an expansion to include young children while preschools are closed. Continue to advocate for equitable implementation of these policies and programs.

Supporting college students as campuses resume in-person or virtual learning to access food resources.


Participated in and supported state emergency management food team to respond to wildfires across the state, including helping to implement Disaster SNAP and FEMA mass feeding sites.


Continued our internal work, dedicating one day per week to advancing our internal anti-racism work.

In an effort to ensure work-life balance and address burnout happening among staff working so hard during this pandemic, we closed the offices for one week in August.

October – December


With federal policies allowing the delivery of free school meals about to expire, we worked with Central School District to organize letters to USDA and members of the U.S. Congress to advocate for extending these policies. Around 100 schools signed-up as well as many community partners. With many allies nationwide, we won an extension through June 2021.


Prepared for the Oregon Legislative session to start by working with Representatives to introduce three bills!

Our Hunger-Free Campus team is leading on advocating with community colleges and the Oregon Student Association to place navigators on campuses to help students access food and housing services.

We worked with representatives to introduce a bill to ensure membership of the Oregon Hunger Task Force is more representative and inclusive of people with personal, lived experience of hunger and poverty.

We worked with representatives to introduce a bill to amend the Hunger-Free Schools bill from May 2019 to ensure students who make up to 300% of the federal poverty line can access school meals at no cost.



We know in moments of crisis, the potential for dramatic change is also present. SNAP and school meals germinated in the Great Depression and World War II. The threadbare and inequitable nature of our “safety net” is now exposed in ways that are increasingly personal. We can’t settle for going back to the old normal- and the impulse to create lasting change is irresistible. Hunger-Free Oregon’s work is to create access points so people have power and agency in the systems that impact their dining table.

If we do it right – if we track policy-making carefully, share information with the public, amplify community voices, direct new resources, bird-dog bad policies and slow-moving processes – we can create just and positive change. We can prevent, not just respond to, hunger. Which is to say: we can plant new seeds for the future, together.



We will continue to support schools, ensuring meals are available no matter the type of instruction.

We anticipate work this summer if schools are planning to return to in-person instruction to implement parts of the Hunger-Free School bill including breakfast after the bell!

Advocate to continue serving meals to all students at no cost!


Educate Legislators during the Spring 2021 session about the scope of hunger, particularly passing policies to address high rates of hunger and homelessness for college students, on Oregon’s school meal policy, and hunger-response coordination.


Hire two new staff members! A Legislative Strategist (as part of a re-envisioning of our Policy Director position) and a Fundraiser (new position) will join our team in Spring 2021 to increase our capacity.

Continue to work on implementing our new model of circles and reduce hierarchy in our organization to ensure everyone is working toward the same mission and vision, and is aligned

Pass a new compensation policy and continue this work to pass new policies around self-care, hours of work, and more!


Thanks to a generous grant from The Albertsons Companies Foundation, we are beginning to explore how to better serve undocumented families with food assistance, with the goal of finding a policy solution to implement at the state level in 2023. We are working with many coalition partners and look forward to continuing to share updates on this work as we get started.