Each September, in honor of Hunger Action Month, individuals across America come together to acknowledge the hunger crisis that plagues our country. It is a time of solidarity and mobilization as communities recognize the power of group action through volunteering, fundraising and advocacy efforts for policy change.

But this September is unlike anything in recent memory. The pandemic has crippled the economy and heightened existing food insecurity beyond prediction. One in five Oregonians is out of work. The state has seen more than 28,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. The implications for health and well-being are wide-ranging, and the consequences for hunger are immediate.

Since COVID-19 began, hunger in Oregon has more than doubled and communities are seeking food assistance at alarming rates, according to the Oregon Policy Analysis Lab at Oregon State University. But there is optimism in the strength of community activism.

"Our communities are building this incredible collective power," says Susannah Morgan, the CEO of Oregon Food Bank. "It is power that will see us not just through addressing hunger today but also ending hunger for good."

As we anticipate a historic election, this public health and economic crisis serves as a critical reminder that policy decisions, program investments and the priorities of our elected leaders matter.

For this unprecedented Hunger Action Month, Oregon Food Bank is encouraging individuals to show up in new ways for our neighbors, whether that is on the streets or at the ballot box. Hunger does not exist as an isolated problem—its roots are bound in poverty and systemic racism, and this month is a time to take action to ensure employment, healthcare, education and housing are not barriers.

This starts with the issues and leaders we choose to support, and everyone has the ability to check their registration to verify that the address and other information is up to date. Oregon Food Bank encourages everyone to go a step further to advocate for the policies that make a difference in local lives. In times of crisis, this includes extending eligibility for pandemic relief, increasing 'SNAP' food assistance and continuing 'Pandemic EBT' to accommodate for lost school meals.

For those who are able to, donations to Oregon Food Bank go towards comprehensive efforts to eliminate hunger. For those who can spare their time, there are opportunities to participate in socially distanced volunteering, both at Oregon Food Bank and local partner agencies.

Learn more about ways to get involved in Hunger Action Month with Oregon Food Bank at oregonfoodbank.org/voteouthunger.