The first thirty years of the Food Not Bombs movement.
Food Not Bombs is gaining momentum throughout the world. There are hundreds of autonomous chapters sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty. Food Not Bombs is not a charity. This energetic all volunteer grassroots movement is active throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia. For over 30 years the movement has worked to end hunger and has supported actions to stop the globalization of the economy, restrictions to the movements of people, end exploitation and the destruction of the earth and its beings.
The first group was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists. Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. Food Not Bombs has no formal leaders and strives to include everyone in its decision making process. Each group recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and makes fresh hot vegan and vegetarian meals that are served in outside in public spaces to anyone without restriction. Many Food Not Bombs groups also share groceries and organize other efforts to support their communities. Each independent group also serves free meals at protests and other events.
The San Francisco Police arrested 9 volunteers for making a political statement at the entrance to Golden Gate Park on Monday, August 15, 1988. The San Francisco Police made over 1,000 arrests from 1988 to 1997 in government’s effort to silence its protest against the city’s anti- homeless policies. Amnesty International states it will adopt those Food Not Bombs volunteers that are convicted as “Prisoners of Conscience” and will work for their unconditional release.
When news spread about the arrests in San Francisco people were inspired to start Food Not Bombs groups in their own communities at first in Seattle, Washington, Victoria British Columbia, New York City, New York and Washington D.C. After police made another 300 arrests in the summer of 1989 after shutting down a 27 day occupation in support of the homeless new chapters started in most of the major cities of Canada and the United States as well as in London, England, Prague Czechoslovakia and Melbourne, Australia. Those arrested ended when a huge earthquake cut off the power and gas on October 17, 1989 . Police discovered that the only meals available to them were being provided by Food Not Bombs.
Food Not Bombs is often the first to provide food and supplies to the survivors of disasters. Food Not Bombs was also the first to provide hot meals to the rescue workers responding to September 11th World Trade Center attacks. Food Not Bombs volunteers were among the first to provide food and help to the survivors of the Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Our volunteers organized a national collection program and delivered bus and truckloads of food and supplies to the gulf region becoming the only organization to share daily meals in New Orleans after Katrina.
Food Not Bombs provided the meals for the protesters at many occupations including Camp Casey outside Bush’s ranch in Texas, at a 100 day occupation in Kiev, Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, at a two month Peace Camp on the west Bank in Palestine and at a 600 day farmer’s occupation in Bosnia and Herzegovina Square in Sarajevo. Volunteers also helped organize and shared meals at the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle and provide logistical support for many other anti-globalization actions. Food Not Bombs groups started animal rescue shelters in 24 cities in Slovokia. We are also sharing meals at protests responding to the global economic crisis.
As the global economy was starting to collapse the city of Orlando passed a law restricting the sharing of meals with the hungry. The Orlando Police arrested Food Not Bombs volunteer Eric Montanez on April 4, 2007. Many other America cities also introduced laws to discourage the feeding of the hungry and Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested in Nevada, Connecticut and several other states. Eric was found innocent and Food Not Bombs challenged the law in Federal Court. After winning at the district level the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rule that Orlando could restrict Food Not Bombs to twice a year per park. The city started arresting the volunteers for sharing meals at Lake Eola Park on June 1, 2011 but stopped when the mayor agreed to let Food Not Bombs continue it’s meals outside City Hall. Volunteers were also being arrested for sharing meals in Minks, Belaruse.
Food Not Bombs works in coalition with groups like Earth First!, The Leonard Peltier Defense Committee, Anarchist Black Cross, the IWW, Homes Not Jails, Anti Racist Action, Farm Animal Rights Movement, In Defense of Animals, the Free Radio Movement and other organizations on the cutting edge of positive social change and resistance to the new global austerity program. Food Not Bombs is now preparing for the economic crash organizing Food Not Lawns community gardens, housing the homeless with Homes Not Jails, organizing additional meals each week while starting new Food Not Bombs chapters in as many communities as possible.
Many groups also organize Really Really Free Markets giving away all kinds of items for free, and may also organize Bikes Not Bombs programs collecting and repairing used bicycles to provide to people in low-income communities. We also provide meals to protesters at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in the United States and have provided meals to the families of striking workers including the Republic Window and Door occupation in Chicago, hospital workers strikes in San Francisco and at many auto workers strikes in South Korea. Food Not Bombs also help organize actions encouraging alternatives to the failure of capitalism including the wave of occupations that started in 2011.
Along with organizing the celebration each local chapter collects and distributes food every week and there are several other projects that support the Food Not Bombs movement. One collective called “A Food Not Bombs Menu.” is organized as a global coordination office helping people find or start local chapters. They also maintain the website http://www.foodnotbombs.net, organize tours and support Food Not Bombs gatherings. They also provide books, t-shirts and other materials to promote the principles of Food Not Bombs. We hope you will join us in taking direct action towards creating a world free from domination, coercion and violence. Food is a right, not a privilege.
Please visit these pages to find out how you can help us work for peace and justice.
You are also invited to visit:
THIRTY YEARS OF COOKING FOR PEACE – a short history of the Food Not Bombs Movement
A NEW BOOK ABOUT FOOD NOT BOMBS
HUNGRY FOR PEACE – How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs