Monday, August 5, 2013

Food Not Bombs building community from surplus food

As someone who regularly volunteers with the homeless and helps out at Rosie’s turkey dinners, I was shocked to learn last year of people being arrested in Florida just for feeding the hungry. Could this be some kind of joke? Sadly, it was not. The organization Food Not Bombs, which for decades has been putting together healthy meals for the hungry using discarded food, is apparently too radical for American authorities to tolerate.
Luckily, Canadian governments aren’t so repressive – at least, not yet. And Barrie has its own chapter of Food Not Bombs, who regularly put together a free tasty vegetarian/vegan meal that anyone can enjoy.
The philosophy of Food Not Bombs is solidarity, not charity. Rather than act as an agency where staff feed poor clients, they create a space where everyone can work together to make and enjoy a healthy meal and atmosphere. All are welcome, and you don’t have to attend a sermon or prove lack of income to take part. Many join in preparing or serving the meal (or cleaning up after) and all eat together; there is no “us and them” divide, either physical or conceptual.
However, the event always includes a literature table, so you can learn about ideas outside the corporate consumer culture. In their own words, “meals without a message is just charity and supports the current system of exploitation; it isn’t a Food Not Bombs meal if you don’t have literature and a banner.” But it’s not a political rally, either; no-one makes speeches and it’s up to you whether to take some literature to read, and whether or not to talk politics over dinner. Families are welcome, and you can enjoy live musical entertainment with your meal.
You might wonder how so many can be fed with discarded food. Surprisingly, studies show that billions of dollars worth of food is thrown away or left to spoil every year. There is more than enough that can be diverted to provide for the hungry among us, if we make the effort. This wish to avoid wasting food is also a driver behind the new FruitShare Barrie initiative – more on that next week.
Barrie’s chapter of Food Not Bombs holds their dinners at the D.I.Y. Arts Collective at 67 Toronto Street on the second Thursday of each month, including next week (August 8th). To find out more about upcoming dinners, or to join the consensus-based group, visit They are also always looking for more connections to stores or restaurants willing to donate surplus food so it can be cooked and served, rather than thrown away, or to help with kitchen space or cooking supplies. And always happy to see new faces for dinner!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.