How Stories Ground Us to Work for Equity

by Alison Killeen

On March 28, 2017, we took the Capitol by storm at the Hunger-Free Oregon Day of Action! By the numbers, the day was a success: More than 75 participants advocated in meetings with more than 30 legislators from across the state. Here, you can read the full agenda and what took place at the Oregon Hunger Task Force’s Legislative Breakfast.

For me, the biggest takeaway at the Day of Action was a deep reaffirmation that the stories and voices of people with lived experience of food insecurity are a grounding and motivating source for making real change.

At the Legislative Breakfast, 12 people shared their personal stories of food insecurity in their lives. Throughout the day, participants wove these stories into direct asks for concrete policy change, such as paid family leave, rent stabilization, healthier school meals provided free of charge, and funding for the Oregon Hunger Task Force. We stated clearly that none of these programs should be cut; we must not balance the budget on the backs of 1 in 6 Oregonians who struggle to afford food. Hunger has been increasing in Oregon; right now is the time for sate lawmakers to raise revenues in ways that will lift families out poverty.

The collective impact of the stories made clear that the source of hunger isn’t as simple as not having enough food. Instead, hunger will cease only when everyone has equal access to food, which is strongly influenced by gender, geography, race, health, age, sexual orientation, ability and many other social factors. People have different experiences in life because the social systems we have created historically set lines of delineation based almost entirely on our bodies: what parts they have, where they were born and where they are, what abilities they have, what language they understand, how healthy they are, what color they are, how they express love, or just express themselves.

To end hunger, we must address these systems of oppression that were based—implicitly or explicitly—on these differences. This is why PHFO supports issues that at first glance may not appear to be related to hunger and food, such as housing or child care. This is why last year we made a commitment to integrating equity into all aspects of our work. And, this is why we ground our work in the stories of people who know what food insecurity feels like.

To that end, I invite you to read some of the stories shared at the Hunger-Free Day of Action, and then, to take action with us.

Kristin’s story on Survival and Opportunity
Joshua’s Story on Becoming an Advocate, a Voice and an Ally
Paul’s Story on Hunger and Hope
Jackie’s Story on Parenting and Food
Vic’s Story: From Skipping Meals to Feeding Others
Jen’s Story on Gardening and Abundance

Take Action Now!

Tell your legislator to reject proposed cuts to food assistance and other basic services for Oregon’s students, seniors and families; that any long-term solution must include additional revenue, raised in ways that are not regressive.