Baltimore Free Farm Feeds Protestors Through 'Culinary Solidarity'

BALTIMORE -- Inside a small, unassuming warehouse in a quiet neighborhood nestled near the outskirts of Baltimore, Maryland, a small group of activists are busy cooking, shuffling about and giving marching orders as veggies simmer on a stove and potatoes bake in an oven. Though they're used to the hustle and bustle of cooking massive amounts of food, the past two weeks have taken a more urgent tone.

As protests enveloped the city following the death 25-year-old Freddie Gray, whose spine was severed while in police custody, the organization Baltimore Free Farm immediately began working around the clock to feed hungry demonstrators.

Normally, Free Farm -- along with other organizations including Food Not Bombs -- feeds the homeless organic vegan food weekly. The supply comes from supermarkets and kitchens across the city that deem the food below standards to serve. Free Farm first sifts through the food then proceeds to prep and serve hundreds of meals to individuals in need.

baltimore free farm

"We normally feed 80 to 100 less fortunate people every Sunday, rain or shine," 33-year-old volunteer Kenny Vetra told the Huffington Post on Sunday. Along with their normal numbers, they're now feeding hundreds more at multiple protests across the city.

"Feeding people at protests has helped calm things down," Vetra says. "It's brought people support and love through food, basically culinary solidarity with the people. It's helped break the tension a little bit."

As volunteers cook food inside the commune-of-sorts, a dozen or so other activists sit cross-legged in dirt out back by the garden talking plans of action. Free Farms is mainly comprised of young white adults. Today, they're discussing how they can help the black community while acknowledging their own white privilege.


Brittany Boicourt, 23, leads the discussion, and told the Huffington Post that what started off as a fun idea quickly transformed into a more serious initiative.

"After our friends and people we know began to get pepper sprayed and arrested, we were like 'oh, this is actually really serious,'" Boicourt says. "We've been really serious about cooking for every event, every protest, every demonstration that we possibly can."

On Sunday, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Governor Larry Hogan announced that the city-wide curfew had been lifted and the national guard has begun to withdraw. Still, some, including Boicourt, have expressed criticism over the city's handling of protests.

"Collectively, we feel the curfew was not right -- it was an inherently racist action that the city took and we do not support it in any way," she says. "We were feeding people right as curfew was going into effect, that way if they got arrested they could at least go to jail with a little bit of food in their stomachs."

Later in the day, groups of volunteers split off to go to different locations: a protest at city hall, a gathering outside a detention center where arrested protestors are being released, and their usual Sunday spot where the homeless congregate. Food items includes chili, stir fry, tofu sandwiches, bread, potatoes and fruit salad. Fatigue has caught up with the volunteers but the determination persists.


Curtis Holley, 51, is homeless. As he waits in line to get a hot meal from Free Farm and Food Not Bombs, he expresses his gratitude.

"I know across America there are pockets of really, really bad poverty," Holley says. "And thank God for organizations like this and the churches in the area that step up to the plate and make sure that people don't starve in this area. It helps me out immensely."

At the detention center, arrested protestors slowly trickle out, each met with a round of applause by Free Farm and other organizations there to provide free legal advice and assistance.

"Thank you so much for all you do," says one recently released protestor as a volunteer piles his plate with food. "This is what it's all about."

Boicourt says long after the media is gone, Free Farm will be around to help a struggling community.

"We want to feed this movement," she says. "We want to support the community during their struggle, and do what we can as allies, and be in real solidarity with them. That means getting out there, being at the protests, and following and supporting their actions."

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