In what is now an annual tradition, Oregon Food Bank held its ninth MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 20, to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Led by presenting sponsor Bank of America and supporting sponsor Pacific Power, more than 400 volunteers gathered to help package nearly 72,000 meals’ worth of food to support families facing hunger, according to a press release. The dry goods and produce will be distributed through a network of 21 Regional Food Banks and more than 1,200 food assistance sites throughout Oregon and southwest Washington.

Community partners and volunteers play a vital role in the Oregon Food Bank network’s ability to feed more than 260,000 people who access services each month. On MLK Day, volunteers gathered at Oregon Food Bank’s NE Portland and Beaverton locations, sorting and packaging pasta, pears, apples, onions and garbanzo beans — as well as food donated by partner organizations and a host of items collected through local food drives.

“We were thrilled to join Oregon Food Bank and honor the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through service in our communities,” said Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America’s market president in Oregon and Southwest Washington. “The Bank of America team is proud to support Oregon Food Bank as one of our cornerstone community partners — and I look forward to continuing our shared effort to end hunger in the region.”

Oregon Food Bank works to address food insecurity in two key ways: providing neighbors access to healthy, nutritious food today; and building community power to eliminate the root causes of hunger for good. In addition to their food packaging and distribution activities, Service Day volunteers took action to help address the systemic drivers of hunger and poverty.

The 2020 census provides states like Oregon and Washington the opportunity to receive proper financial resources and political representation. Over the last decade, populations and community needs in both states have grown. When fewer people complete the census, inadequate resources are allocated. Many Service Day volunteers pledged not only to participate in the census themselves, but to help ensure their friends and neighbors are also counted.

“Like Dr. King, Oregon Food Bank believes that food, housing and healthcare are essential human rights,” said Susannah Morgan, Oregon Food Bank CEO, in her opening remarks to volunteers on Martin Luther King’s call to service. “Communities that experience hunger often don’t get adequate representation. Today, in addition to volunteering your time, you’re being asked to ensure everyone is counted by pledging to compete the 2020 census.”

When people are not counted in the U.S. Census, communities don’t receive the resources they need — school meals, SNAP (also referred to as food stamps), WIC (women, infants and children) dollars to spend at grocery stores, housing and utility assistance, and many important community resources.

The results of the census directly affect many of the policies that either foster or mitigate systemic inequities.

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