TCN Newsletter Issue 12: April 2015


Guardianship Guild Article:

Food, Street Theatre, and Radical Education:

The Story of Food Not Bombs 

by Taylor Proffitt

food_not_bombs_logoIt’s been 35 years since the beginning of the radical, vegan, homeless-serving activist group, Food Not Bombs. Since I started serving in the Norfolk, Va chapter, I’ve been more curious about the deeper inspiration behind this amazing network of creative food sovereignty activists. I caught up with co-Founder, Keith McHenry to find out more.

Along with seven other nuclear war protesters, Keith founded Food Not Bombs on May 24, 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The group had organized a bake sale to raise funds for a fellow protester’s legal defense fund, inspired by the famous quote “It will be a great day when schools get all the money they need and the air force has to holds a bake sale to buy a bomber” The Food NOt Bombs founding crew got a poster with this quote, dressed up in military uniforms and took to the streets!

Around the same time, Keith was a produce manager at a local grocery store in cambridge, ma. Seeing that they threw a lot of produce away, Keith and friends started closing the gap between full trash cans and empty stomachs. He and the other FNB co-founders quit their jobs, dressed up in full hobo attire, and started collecting food and redistributing it full time. Thus Food Not Bombs was born.

hungry for peace

Keith moved o San Francisco in 1988 to bring what he’d started in NorthEast to the west coast. On August, 15 1988 the beginning of Food Not Bombs’ San Francisco chapter started serving the homeless in Golden gate park, and were arrested for the first time. The following monday, there were fifteen arrests, the next week, twenty four arrests, and two weeks later, 54 arrests.  With 93 arrests in four weeks, FNB made headlines. Each time people were arrested for serving the homeless, and word spread, people started new chapters in response. Between 1988 and 1995, were over 1,000 Food Not Bombs-related arrests, news that inspired many chapters to start all at once.Once those chapters started getting arrested, more would start. By the time CNN reported FNB arrests, the word had spread far and wide, and this high profile press release would eventually lead to the beginning of hundreds of chapters worldwide.

The ethics behind food not bombs are simple. Food symbolizes abundance, vitality, health, freedom, empowerment. Bombs represent scarcity, violence, domination, colonization, and commodification of the Earth and it’s inhabitants. Food Not Bombs is committed to combatting scarcity by bringing abundance in the places it is needed most and educating people how to approach their lives in this perspective.

 Keith is now running an educational farm in Taos, New Mexico, called the Food Not Bombs Free Skool, in which students are exposed to new ideas for building a sustainable future while learning the hands on skills to make them happen, all for free. You can apply to attend this awesome program here, and use what you learned to bring a free skool to your community!

At this point you are probably wondering, “How do I get involved in all this meaningful and fun work?” The chances are, there is a Food Not Bombs in your city. Check out the directory here.

food not bombs rvaWhat if there isn’t a Food Not Bombs in my area?

Start one! As long as you are aligned with and follow the three principles of food not bombs, you can represent this organization in any way you decide is right. You can begin by reading the seven steps to starting a food not bombs chapter! You can use all the global Food Not Bombs logos freely, alter it to your preference, or make your own logo to use! You can order a startup kit and print out flyers from the website. You can get donations from grocery stores, restaurants, farmer’s markets, and any other creative ways you can think of to get free, healthy food to serve. You can serve vegan or vegetarian food to people anywhere and offer a literature stand or distribute your zine while you do it! You can start a Really, Really Free Market. You can start a Bikes Not Bombs, in which you collect old bike parts, teach kids how to build a bike, and then donate the one you build. Get involved with Homes not Jails, a connected group that advocates for the use of vacant and abandoned housing for people who are are homeless. Always feel free to email a peer chapter or the founders of Food Not Bombs at or give them a call at 575-770-3377.

Now go out there and redistribute the amazing resources you have access to, and share the wealth! If you are reading this, you are privileged and capable of creating real and meaningful change in your community today. Don’t forget to have fun in the process!


officialheadshotby Taylor Proffitt

TCN Community Member

Network Ambassador at Project Nuevo Mundo