SALEM, OR. - A new Oregon bill seeks to bridge the divide in who can receive food assistance: the Food for All Oregonians campaign aims to extend food aid to lawful permanent residents, refugees, and citizens of Compact Free Association nations.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is America's most extensive food assistance program. However, federal law prevents undocumented people from receiving aid. The Food for All Oregonians bill would change that by offering food assistance to all Oregonians regardless of where they were born.
According to Aldo Solano Mendez, Strategic Partners Manager for the Oregon Food Bank and Co-Manager of the Food for All Oregonians Campaign, 62,000 Oregonians are currently excluded from SNAP due to their immigration status or birthplace.
This disproportionately affects immigrant communities and people of color; in 2020, data shows that these groups were two or three times more likely than white Oregonians to experience food insecurity.
In order to create meaningful legislation that serves those most affected by hunger, advocacy organization Adelante Mujeres hosted listening sessions with community members experiencing food insecurity.
Petrona Dominguez, Leadership & Advocacy Program Coordinator at Adelante Mujeres, said these sessions provided insight into "what it meant to be accessing food, what their experiences have been and also how they might envision something that's pertainable" to them.
Fatima Jawaid Marty of Partnership for a Hunger-Free Oregon highlighted another critical factor in ensuring access to food assistance: outreach and information in languages spoken by immigrant communities. She noted that this could include having a "community navigation program" that provides resources in multiple languages so everyone can get the help they need.
The proposed legislation has 17 co-sponsors from both houses of the Oregon legislature and is scheduled for a public hearing soon. If passed, people who are otherwise denied aid due to their immigration status will finally get access through Food for All Oregonians – helping bridge an existing gap between those with access and those without – as well as reducing hunger rates across all demographics in the state.