Gabriel Baron first heard about Crisis Kitchen through a call for support he saw on Facebook. The mutual aid group was providing free meals around Portland, Oregon, to combat food insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m a believer in local communities supporting local communities,” Baron says. So he volunteered to deliver meals for the kitchen. As he did so, he started having conversations with folks in the organization and learning more about the scope of the problem they were trying to address. Baron says he was already a skeptic of capitalism and the failing social systems, but that he was floored by just how systemic food insecurity was in “wonderful, liberal Portland.” And he was equally moved by the work that Crisis Kitchen was doing to respond to it with an alternative economy of care.
“In terms of getting aid to people who needed it, they were directly helping people in a very immediate way,” Baron says. “I was really inspired by their ideology of solidarity, or radical solidarity.”
And that’s when Baron, a filmmaker, decided to bring his camera to the Crisis Kitchen. He said he was interested in demystifying mutual aid for viewers. It’s not an unwieldy and hierarchical institution. It was as simple as laid-off restaurant employees asking to use the kitchen to prepare food for people in their community. And the effort has snowballed from there. The group now delivers about 1,000 free, restaurant-quality meals around the city every week.
Crisis Kitchen is one of a network of mutual aid groups in Portland working to build a more supportive and just community. In the film, Adrian Garcia Groenendyk, the co-founder of Crisis Kitchen, says mutual aid demonstrates what can be done to meet people’s needs and help them thrive in our society. Long-term, he says this critical work shouldn’t be dependent on community donations. The goal should be to take money out of institutions of violence and put it into institutions of care, like Crisis Kitchen.
Baron continues to deliver meals for Crisis Kitchen every week. He says it’s not just about the food, but about how we relate to people. It’s about a revolutionary way to build a society that works for everyone.
Breanna Draxler is a senior editor at YES!, where she leads coverage of climate and environmental justice, and Native rights. She has nearly a decade of experience editing, reporting, and writing for national magazines including National Geographic online and Grist, among others. She collaborated on a climate action guide for Audubon Magazine that won a National Magazine Award in 2020. She recently served as a board member for the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Northwest Science Writers Association. She has a master’s degree in environmental journalism from the University of Colorado Boulder. Breanna is based out of the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people, but has worked in newsrooms on both coasts and in between. She previously held staff positions at bioGraphic, Popular Science, and Discover Magazine.