A Portland-based food bank that receives millions in government funding says it prioritizes racial and sexual minorities for food and grant distribution, which, according to one lawyer, could violate the Civil Rights Act.
The Oregon Food Bank commits to putting minorities at the "center" of its service and has funds set up to specifically support minority-run food producers, according to its site. However, a civil rights organization believes this could constitute discrimination against non-minorities and non-minority-led organizations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the Oregon Food Bank through the Oregon Department of Human Services. (Celal Gunes / Anadolu Agency)
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It "appears to be a straightforward admission that the Oregon Food Bank is deciding whom to contract with (and whom to refuse to contract with) for the food it buys based on race, along with other factors," American Civil Rights Project Executive Director Dan Morenoff told Fox News. "It is extremely hard to imagine how the Oregon Food Bank’s intentional racial discrimination in contracting could be defended as consistent with the Constitutional prohibition against public racial discrimination."
But the Oregon Food Bank said its investments help communities across the state.
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"In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), we invest significantly in anti-hunger efforts through local food purchases and grower support — including direct purchases from farmers and ranchers who are federally-classified as disadvantaged due to systemic racial or ethnic prejudice," the Oregon Food Bank told National Review, which first reported on the priorities. "These transformative investments have helped people facing the highest and disproportionate rates of hunger produce and distribute food in underserved rural, remote and urban communities throughout the state."
"We know that the root causes of hunger are systemic injustices — including the connections between racism, classism, sexism, settler colonialism and more — which continue the conditions that sustain hunger and poverty," the Oregon Food Bank website states. "Understanding this, we commit to center those who most disproportionately experience hunger across our service area — Black, Indigenous and all People of Color, immigrants and refugees, gender expansive folks (including Two-Spirit folks), and single mothers and caregivers — in ways that honor and value each other and our lived experiences."
The nonprofit received nearly $20 million in government funding during its 2022 fiscal year, according to its most recently available financial report. The year prior, the Oregon Food Bank received over $10 million in government support, another report shows.
Oregon Food Bank's Community Grower Support Fund provides contracts to BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, trans, gender nonconforming, single mother and caregiver growers. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard, File)
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The Oregon Food Bank's Community Grower Support Fund specifically "contracts with BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, trans and gender nonconforming and single mother and caregiver growers to provide locally grown food to communities impacted by hunger," the nonprofit wrote in its 2021 impact report. The group awarded over $800,000 to minority-led organizations that year, an increase from the year prior.
In 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced an agreement with the ODHS to provide funding to the Oregon Food Bank to improve its supply chain.
The Oregon Food Bank promised to strengthen its partnerships and investments in "Black, Indigenous and all People of Color" in 2022, according to that year's impact report.
"There is a very real likelihood that the discriminatory contracting violates the 14th Amendment," Morenoff told Fox News.
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The Oregon Food Bank commits to centering minorities across their service areas. (Marie D. De Jesús/Houston Chronicle via AP)
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Oregon lawmakers also approved $7.5 million for the food bank earlier this year.
"Entirely aside from whether the Oregon Food Bank is a federal funding recipient and therefore subject to Title VI, one of the surviving provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is universally understood — as amended — to forbid race-based contracting," Morenoff recently told National Review. "So, if they are making contracting decisions based on race, they are in violation of a federal civil rights statute, regardless of anything else."
The Oregon Food Bank, USDA and ODHS did not return requests for comment.
Jon Michael Raasch is an associate producer/writer with Fox News Digital Originals.