Chefs And Food Trucks Were Fed By The Social Justice Protests For 2020
2020 begins on a positive note for Nikeisah Newton. Newton had launched Meals 4 Heels just a year ago, a catering and distribution company that delivers vegan and vegetarian meals to Portland, the sex worker population in Oregon. It was going well. The pandemic then happened.
As social distancing initiatives discouraged any in-person sex work from happening, her company dried up.
Then after the police killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Jacob Blake, and thousands of Portlanders took to the streets to demonstrate, Newton decided instead to start feeding the protesters.
Newton was approached to help feed demonstrators from numerous organizations in mutual assistance. “Meals were going for an $8 suggested donation, but no one would be turned away, “Meals were going for a suggested $8 donation, but none would be turned away. “If you want to show support this is how you do it. You buy from Black businesses. I’m a Black female chef in Portland . . . a predominantly White city.”
In her actions, Newton is far from alone in addition to feeding people afflicted by the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, a vast number of food vans and catering businesses around the nation joined up to feed the millions who took to the streets earlier this year in demonstrations against social justice. In October and November, some trucks and others returned to help feed voters standing in long lines at the elections. These programs have helped keep small companies alive by leveraging everything from pay-what-you-can models to foundation grants.
A collective of culinary demonstrators joined together to feed demonstrators in the Bronx at the height of the demonstrations in New York. Ghetto Gastro and the non-profit Rethink Food, the Bronx-based culinary group, teamed up to use donations to feed protesters who took to the streets seeking peace.
The Venture Also Started In Some More Places
Similar ventures sprung up around the country, including those in Portland, Oregon, and Dallas, Texas.
But with the increased momentum, people who weren’t as focused on their message were also gradually attracted to more food trucks. They also were becoming goals. That was the case for Riot Kitchen.
They brought their mutual assistance initiative on the road as marches began to take place nationwide. Riot Kitchen was the focus of consistent law enforcement harassment while feeding demonstrators. And most prominently after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in August in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
They were stopped alongside volunteers at a gas station loading up canisters they planned to use to power generators to prepare food to feed protesters. The officers thought the volunteers were trying to use the gasoline to incite riots, according to police accounts. They arrested nine party members for disorderly conduct. The Riot Kitchen police reaction is reflective of the structural actions that initiated these demonstrations in the first place.