Envisioning an Oregon Food Charter: Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Immigrant, & Refugee Perspectives

Author: Katy Giombolini, Oregon Food Bank, and Lauren Gwin, OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems

Publication Date: Winter 2021

What are the top priorities for Oregon’s Community Food Systems movement? Whose voices need to be heard?

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed a broader public to the long-standing racial and social inequities in the food system. We also saw clearly how essential it is for communities most affected by those inequities to lead and influence food system transformation.

On November 17 and 18, the Oregon Community Food Systems Network kicked off its Oregon Food Charter project with an event that put those communities’ voices front and center. (What’s a Food Charter? Read on.)

The event featured five panels with 19 speakers representing 16 organizations led by and/or focused on Black, Indigenous, Latinx, immigrant, and refugee communities in Oregon. Most, but not all, of these organizations are current OCFSN members.

More than 200 people attended the event over the two days and were inspired by presentations, videos, conversations, and storytelling.

OCFSN, established in 2015, has long planned to lead the creation of an Oregon Food Charter. The Network is a collaboration of 56 nonprofit organizations and allies dedicated to strengthening local and regional food systems to deliver better economic, social, health and environmental outcomes across the state (learn more: http://ocfsn.net/).

A Food Charter sets out a collaborative vision – and a roadmap to get there – of a more just and environmentally and economically resilient regional food system. By “food system,” we mean the complex, interconnected web of activities, people, policies, natural resources, and so much else that has to come together for human nourishment. Food Charters have been created in different parts of the U.S. to motivate collaborative, cross-sector change.

The Oregon Food Charter process aims to lead with equity. In 2018, OCFSN wrote an equity statement acknowledging that our food system is built and maintained on a foundation of oppression and systemic racism of Black, Indigenous peoples, people of color, and immigrants. We also recognize a clear need to ensure that communities of color — who have long been at the forefront of organizing for change in food systems — are centered in our efforts. That means shifting resources, decision making, and power to communities we have historically marginalized.

Since writing that statement, OCFSN has been working at multiple levels to put this commitment into practical action through our network’s practices, working group focus areas, member representation, and individual and organizational trainings and education.

The Food Charter Project is part of this work. We know an Oregon Food Charter will not be successful unless it is shaped and led by the communities most affected by the inequities in the food system.

OCFSN received funding from Meyer Memorial Trust to learn from Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Immigrant and Refugee communities about their visions for transforming the food system in Oregon. The Food Charter team originally planned to travel the state conducting on-site visits and interviews to gather these visions but shifted to an online format because of the pandemic.

For the online event, we asked OCFSN members led by or significantly focused on these communities a set of big questions:

1. What is your community’s vision for Oregon’s food system?

2. What stands in your way, and what solutions are you working on now?

3. What other solutions do you want to work on in the future?

4. In what ways can the community food systems movement in Oregon support your solutions?

5. What do you think are the top priorities the Community Food Systems movement should focus on?

We invited them to share their answers to any and all, in whatever format they chose. The resulting panels were an engaging, powerful mix of perspectives, big ideas, specific strategies, and calls to action.

Network members and working groups are now reflecting on what they learned, and the Food Charter team is now circling back with our presenters for their own reflections on the event and how OCFSN can use the Charter to support their organizations and a larger, collaborative movement. This is a long process – stay tuned.

For now, you can watch the recorded presentations at the links below. Presenter bios are listed on this page: http://ocfsn.net/panelist-bios/.

Oregon Food Charter Presentations

Tuesday, November 17th

  • Welcome and OpeningRecording here
  • Panel 1Recording here
    • Rob Cato and Beatriz Gutierrez, Zenger Farm
    • Lynn Ketch, Rockwood Food System Collaborative
    • Vanessa Chambers, Grandma’s Hands
    • Adam Kohl, Outgrowing Hunger
  • Panel 2 Recording here
    • Joel Pelayo, The Next Door Inc/RAICES
    • Kathy Kentta-Robinson, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
    • Jennie Brixey, Native American Youth and Family Center
  • Panel 3Recording here
    • Jaime Arredondo and Javier Lara, CAPACES Leadership Institute and Anahuac
    • Edward Hill, Black Food Sovereignty Coalition

Wednesday, November 18th

  • WelcomeRecording here
  • Panel 4Recording here
    • Kaely Summers and Daniela Perez, Adelante Mujeres
    • Shantae Johnson, Mudbone Grown
    • Buck Jones, Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission
  • Panel 5Recording here
    • Laura Galindo, PCUN o Rebeca Marquez, Familias en Acción
    • Rima Green and Rashae Burns, Growing Gardens

Oregon Food Bank and the OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems provide “backbone” support for the Oregon Community Food Systems Network. OCFSN is an independent network which will soon be a nonprofit, 501c3 organization. Learn more at http://ocfsn.net/.