Local Free Meal Nonprofit Expands Grassroots Network


By Lisa Loving, NECN

A small grassroots nonprofit that jumped into action last year to support struggling Portlanders during the pandemic, Meals On Us PDX has blossomed into two community kitchens serving the city and beyond, while rooted in the Sullivan’s Gulch neighborhood.

Meals On Us PDX cooks fresh, repurposed items into thousands of nutritious meals every week.

Founder and visionary chef Marco Antonio Guzmán at first wanted to support his fellow food workers in need after their restaurants and cafes were shut down to combat Covid 19 — but soon the need for food assistance skyrocketed to shelters, camps and communities impacted by wildfires.

Leveraging contributions from local food distribution networks, small area farms and a unique community of food activists, Meals On Us PDX has served more than 20,000 full plates, and “upcycled” 20,000 pounds of food waste into nutritious meals. They’ve racked up more than 7,000 miles delivering locally — but this past September, hundreds of food trays went all the way to the Klamath Tribal communities in Southern Oregon, setting the table for more than 800 people there.

The group typically prepares breakfasts, lunches and dinners that get packed up by volunteers and delivered in bulk. That may sound dull, but Guzmán chronicles everything in gorgeous social media posts packed with photos and videos of fresh vegetables and sizzling dishes (on Facebook and Instagram, @Mealsonuspdx).

This year the cooking’s been done in a vibrant commercial kitchen collective space known as Haleakala: PDX, located near Northeast 28th and Halsey Streets. More than a commercial kitchen, Haleakala: PDX is a social justice hub supporting nonprofit groups and communities with delicious fresh-cooked food.

That collective kitchen is the brainchild of master pickle maker Ashley Tenud, who is building a name for fiery, fresh fermented carrots and cucumbers at The Good Pickle — all made by hand at Haleakala, which can also be rented. 

Now, Meals On Us PDX has also expanded into a second commercial kitchen space, also at the corner of Northeast 28th and Halsey.

For its own part, Meals On Us relies on occasional crowdfunding campaigns, including a current drive for money and useful in-kind donations to get their project and the kitchen facilities through the winter. 

“With farms starting to slow down with the change in season, we are going to have to rely on purchasing product to continue to provide nutritious and delicious eats,” Guzmán says. 

“We are trying to raise money to buy a few refrigerators, freezers, hot boxes, and food ingredients to further enhance and expand our mission of feeding folks needing nourishment!”

Interested in helping support the project? Give online at Venmo and cashapp: mealsonuspdx.

Photos by Marco Antonio Guzmán