Because it’s Portland, Oregon, nothing even remotely related to food is simple. A personal-finance website ranks Portland the runner-up best U.S. city for vegans and vegetarians (slotted between New York and Orlando, Florida), and you’re dropping down a rabbit hole trying to figure out what it means.

“Easy Vegan Baking,” co-authored by Portlander Daniele Lais, offers 80 recipes for cookies, cakes, pizzas, breads and more. The book promises easy-to-find ingredients and straightforward techniques. 

“Easy Vegan Baking,” co-authored by Portlander Daniele Lais, offers 80 recipes for cookies, cakes, pizzas, breads and more. The book promises easy-to-find ingredients and straightforward techniques. 

Courtesy of DK

Of 100 cities, Portland is not among the five best or worst in a variety of categories, though the survey’s research analyst pinpointed it at No. 1 for community gardens per capita and No. 79 for the affordability of groceries for vegetarians.

With data sources ranging from the U.S. Census Bureau to Grubhub food delivery, it’s hard to know exactly what the numbers signify. But ask Emiko Badillo, co-owner of a pair of vegan Food Fight! Grocery stores in Portland, about the scene here and your assumptions might be upended.

Badillo started the group Portland Vegans of Color in 2013.

“I wanted to find my people because I started to feel very alone in veganism and in Portland,” she said. “I wanted to have a space that we could all get together and talk about our shared experiences.” White people in Portland can’t know what it feels like to be the only person of color in a restaurant or grocery store, she said.

Badillo grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and later lived in Queens, New York, both racially and economically diverse cities. “My dad’s Chicano and my mom’s Japanese from Japan,” she said. Badillo became vegan as part of the radical politics and alternative scene of Austin, Texas, in the late 1990s.

Emiko Badillo, co-owner of vegan Food Fight! Grocery, stands outside its second location on outer Northeast Halsey Street. Observing customer habits is one way Badillo has seen the Portland vegan scene change over the last 15 years.

Emiko Badillo, co-owner of vegan Food Fight! Grocery, stands outside its second location on outer Northeast Halsey Street. Observing customer habits is one way Badillo has seen the Portland vegan scene change over the last 15 years.

Jo Mancuso/OPB

Moving from Queens to Portland in 2002 “was just a huge kind of personal wake-up call for me,” as she experienced “a lot of different forms of racism … the microaggressions that I had never even knew existed.” Badillo described “people coming up to me asking where I’m from, if I spoke English, — you know, ‘What are you?’”

Veganism’s shift toward a mainstream lifestyle orientation reflects a culture dominated by whites who see food through “colonized eyes” and taste it through “colonized palates,” said Badillo. But members of Portland Vegans of Color were able to connect animal liberation with human liberation, she said. Animal agriculture is “straight-up murder of animals and sentient beings that have feelings and thoughts and emotions like we do.”

“So if the humans are struggling and oppressed and we’re in charge of the animals, we’re not going to make these positive decisions for them as long as we’re being killed, too.”


Vegan Or vegetarian?

Vegetarians do not eat any animal flesh. Vegans, in addition to abstaining from meat, do not eat dairy products or eggs and do not use other products — such as clothing — derived from animals.


The group has run out of energy, she said, due to “the lifestyle thing, the lack of a political movement, and then … a lot of the vegans of color that were involved in it, or that I knew, have moved away from Portland because Portland pushes out people of color.”

Badillo is not immune to the twin ironies underpinning her business and her life. One is that as an animal-rights activist, she personally is not that interested in the whole vegan food thing.

The other is trying to support an ideological mission “working within capitalism, which is super, super evil and the cause of pretty much every bad thing in the world.” She and her longtime partner, Chad Miller, opened their first store in 2003 to provide vegans with one-stop shopping and to show that the food wasn’t bland or boring. The store moved to inner Southeast Stark Street in a neighborhood that has “blown up” and gentrified around it.

While the original location draws more workers, passersby and single residents seeking lunch or snacks, the Halsey store — opened in 2017 — attracts more families and people buying a week’s worth of groceries, she said. “And then we moved out here, bought a house in East Portland, you know — we’re the gentrifiers as well.”

Watch: Portland’s Vegan Moment Is 100 Years In The Making