Food Not Bombs is an international movement that seeks to “recover and share free vegan or vegetarian food with the public without restriction to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment.” The organization overall looks to take a non-violent approach to food security issues through direct action simply because they believe that “food is a right, not a privilege.” My connection with Food Not Bombs was one simply inspired by serendipity. One of the first people I met upon arriving in Arcata, CA was Andy, a young farmer living on a farm and small commune-ish house known to all who travel thru as “The Farmhouse” in downtown Arcata. He is also a coordinator for the local Food Not Bombs chapter. After connecting over shared views of agriculture, he invited me to come to his house to help cook a meal for Food Not Bombs.
The Arcata chapter of Food Not Bombs was originally founded in 1994 and run by one person for three years providing one meal a week. As you can imagine as with anything that requires such hard work and coordination, it is really easy to get burnt out. So, the chapter took a hiatus until 1996 when Andy, who at the time was working at a local organic farm, began to take the leftover produce to make a big pot of soup, holding his own public meal one night a week. Last year Andy began providing three local, organic, and vegetarian meals a week, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Moreover, the food is sourced locally by the community with the produce coming from Bayside Park Farm, which is employed by the City of Arcata as well as the farmhouse gardens on Fridays. The Arcata Farmers Market takes place on Saturday, where 60-70% of farms that participate donate leftover produce to the meal provided that evening. For the Sunday meal, the North Coast Food Co-Op donates their “off the shelf” produce. This is truly a community-supported effort.
Arcata is a hotspot for young travelers particularly in the fall; therefore Food Not Bombs usually feeds about 60-100 people in the fall, falling to 20-30 people in the winter. Another unexpected and radical relationship that came about due to this program is the relationship between local authorities and the folks that participate in Food Not Bombs. Although a simple concept, sometimes spelling it out is necessary: people are less anxious, angry, hostile, and less likely to engage in violence of any kind when minds and bellies are nourished with a hot, local, organic meal made with love. So, instead of arresting people for disorderly conduct, the police simply say, “go get a hot bowl of soup.” This is particularly important in a small community that historically has a very jaded relationship with the transient nature of a fluctuating (but significant) amount of its populace.
Personally, no words can describe the feeling I had when I got to serve meals in the Arcata plaza. You can get involved in Food Not Bombs, too! As an international food movement, FNB has all sorts of underground support systems for this type of philanthropy already installed in communities across the world. For more information about chapters across the country, please check out their website.