PARTNER PROFILE: Marion Polk Food Share

“The problem is not that there isn’t enough food in the United States to meet the needs of everyone in our communities. The problem is that we have to have the political will to do it. And it’s solvable.” Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer for Feeding America, largest hunger relief organization in the United States.[1]

Last year, 35 million of our neighbors in the United States were “food insecure”: “either unable to acquire enough food to meet their needs, or uncertain of where their next meal might come from.” Then the pandemic hit. In 2020, these numbers have more than doubled to 1 in 4 households. If there are children in the household, the rate increases by 1.5 times, and Black or Latine families are twice as likely as White families to experience food insecurity.[2]

These are just some of the reasons we are excited to announce a new partnership with Marion Polk Food Share, one of Oregon’s largest regional food banks. The Food Share’s mission is to bring people together to end hunger and its root causes. Working deep in their community, Food Share staff and volunteers have witnessed first-hand how people who experience racial injustice are also twice as likely to experience food insecurity and the impacts of hunger. As they state: “To truly end hunger, we must acknowledge how the history of racism has contributed to our modern problems and identify real changes that can be made to end the cycle.” 

In early 2020, the Food Share and LJIST began talking about their goals to address systemic oppression and racial injustice at its root. They were clear that achieving their vision would require individual and collective transformation, ensuring that the organization is attuned to the impacts of oppression in order to provide a welcoming and just place for employees, volunteers, and other community members. The Food Share chose to work with LJIST because of our healing, human-centered approach.

Together, we will deepen an understanding of how healing from the effects of oppression is an essential part of sustainable equity work and support the Food Share to embody this approach in everything they do. As one Food Share staff member shared during our initial conversations, “Your passion shows through and I appreciate hearing that there is hope. You can end racism and we’ll end hunger together.” 

Delayed but undeterred by the onset of the pandemic in the spring and by the summer super wildfires which put Marion and Polk Counties in Oregon’s epicenter, we launched our new partnership at the end of October. Food Share staff members watched our Transformational Relationships on-demand webinar (soon to be renamed Centering Relationships for Systems Change webinar) and participated in a virtual Kick-Off Session to meet the LJIST team and preview the work ahead. Working closely with the DEI Committee and leadership, we have outlined a learning plan for Food Share staff and other stakeholders to access a variety of LJIST offerings including On-Demand Webinars, our new Getting Listened To session, Virtual Workshops, and facilitated meetings.

“We are really excited about LJIST’s unique approach to the work. Their focus on relationship-building as a foundation, healing, social justice, and pushing us to ask ourselves tough questions is a great fit for where we are in our DEI journey. The LJIST team have also been so warm, welcoming, and flexible in designing a program that works for us. We look forward to the work to come.”

Ian Dixon-McDonald, VP of Programs, Marion Polk Food Share

Since 1987, Marion Polk Food Share has been distributing emergency food and hot meals in their namesake counties. As a staff of approximately 70, 15 board members, and a group of committed volunteers, they collect and distribute more than 9 million pounds of emergency food each year. Every month more than 46,000 people access nutritious food through the Food Share’s partner network of more than 100 agencies and emergency food sources, including shelters, churches, food pantries, foster homes, senior housing sites, and others. The Food Share also operates a Meals on Wheels program delivering meals to seniors and disabled adults in Salem and Keizer, and runs programs to address the root causes of hunger including community gardens, job skills training programs, and The Youth Farm, a partnership with the Oregon State University Extension 4H Youth Program.   

LJIST looks forward to working with Marion Polk Food Share to support their mission to bring people together to end hunger in Marion and Polk Counties. 

Notes and References

[1] Jonaki Mehta and Ailsa Chang, “For Hungry Americans Across the Country, Food Insecurity Crisis Deepens,” National Public Radio, All Things Considered, December 14, 2020.

[2] Christianna Silva, “Food Insecurity In The U.S. By The Numbers,” National Public Radio / Oregon Public Broadcasting, September 27, 2020.

Wikipedia, 2020 Oregon Wildfires. Accessed December 15, 2020.