Since this book first appeared in 1992, Food Not Bombs has blossomed from groups in around 15 communities to over 175 chapters around the world. We are one of the largest all-volunteer free food distribution organizations in North America, yet we continue to be little known as we¹re routinely ignored by the media. During those same years, we haven¹t been ignored by the police. In San Francisco alone there have been over 700 more arrests since 1992 as well as numerous police beatings for ³doing Food Not Bombs² or for sharing food in protest of war and poverty, and police have tried to stop chapters from sharing food in several other communities in North America and Europe. But the movement has continued to grow despite the continued repression.
In 1992, Food Not Bombs held its first international gathering in San Francisco. About 70 people attended. FNB volunteers from Boston, Massachusetts; San Francisco, Berkeley, Long Beach, and Santa Cruz, California; Seattle, Washington and Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia spent several days talking about their local efforts, meeting processes, and inter-group structure. Those attending the gathering also participated in protests against 500 years of conquest of the Americas by Europeans. They fed the protesters at Aquatic Park when Indian activists stopped the landing of the official Columbus Day delegation and at the anti-Columbus Day rally at Civic Center Plaza. Some activists also disrupted the Columbus Day parade on Columbus Avenue in the North Beach area.
By 1997 there had been over 1,000 arrests for sharing free vegetarian food in San Francisco. Our trucks and vans were towed dozens of times for transporting free food in violation of a court order. Many volunteers were beaten, required medical care, and faced felony charges. Women and men alike were thrown to the ground by the police, their heads ground into the pavement and arms torn and twisted. A performance artist named Paradox was choked and almost suffocated to death when police snapped his neck during his act. Robert Norse Kahn was the only FNB volunteer convicted of sharing free food without a permit, and he spent 27 days in the county jail. These are just two of the brave, hard working people that faced arrest and police violence for volunteering with Food Not Bombs. The list of Food Not Bombs volunteers who have been beaten includes dozens of others. Keith McHenry was beaten 13 times, was held on $100,000 bail, spent over 450 days in jail, and faced life in prison because of arrests for handing out free food. He was one of the first white people to face the California Three Strikes law, which has a penalty of 25 years to life. He was hospitalized several times after being beaten by the police and had surgery to repair his face after the police clubbed him between the eyes.
The police in other communities have also attempted to stop their local Food Not Bombs groups. FNB chapters in Whittier, San Jose, and Arcata, California; Boston, Massachusetts; Elgin, Illinois; Houston, Texas; Biloxie, Mississippi; Tampa, Florida; Salt Lake City, Utah; Washington, DC; Quebec City and Montreal, and Edmonton, Canada; Berlin and Köln, Germany; and Tokyo, Japan have also been harassed by the police. (Please forgive us if we missed any group.)
In 1995, Food Not Bombs held its second gathering. This time as many as 600 people may have attended. The gathering was held in San Francisco during the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Nations. We were arrested for sharing free food at UN Plaza near the monument to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights commission had come to our aide in San Francisco Amnesty International wrote letters to the Governor of California, the mayor of San Francisco and the District Attorney stating that if we were convicted that we would be considered prisoners of conscience and they would work for our unconditional release. The gathering had a free radio station, and there were workshops on banner making, sexism, racism, composting, cooking, consensus, future actions, puppet making and so on. This large, energetic gathering well illustrated our growth.
By 1995 there were over 100 Food Not Bombs chapters. FNB activists helped start numerous free radio stations, info shops, community gardens and Homes Not Jails groups. We had become a worldwide social movement. By the millennium, Food Not Bombs had 175 chapters scattered around the globe.
The 20 years since Food Not Bombs began in Boston in 1980 have been difficult but rewarding‹and they continue to be rewarding. We couldn¹t be more excited when we learn that there is a new chapter in Poland, the Philippines, Brazil or Finland. We were overwhelmed with joy when he saw the East Bay Food Not Bombs book. It was inspiring to see the recent photo on an AOL email listing of Melbourne Food Not Bombs sharing food in Australia. Just when we thought that Dallas Food Not Bombs was history we got an e-mail detailing their distribution schedule. When Keith was helping the local group share food in front of the Brixton, England Library, two people stopped by to eat. They were from Prague, Czech Republic Food Not Bombs and were on their way to visit the Melbourne, Australia chapter. About a year later the Melbourne web site announced a benefit CD produced by both the Prague and Melbourne chapters. We could have never dreamed that our little idea would grow into a worldwide movement.
Its our hope that this new edition of Food Not Bombs will trigger the start of another 175 groups. A movement that lasts 20 years has the potential to encourage some very positive social change. This movement has such a rich foundation that its future might include actions far beyond our present activities. Because Food Not Bombs was intentionally created with few boundaries, its future is limited only by your imagination. Thousands of people have experienced the joy of sharing free food and ideas with Food Not Bombs. The first time you volunteer with Food Not Bombs will probably change your life. It certainly changed ours.
Start a Food Not Bombs group in you community today!
A FOOD NOT BOMBS handbook
[ MAIN MENU | More FNB Websites | Flyers You Can Reprint | Food Not Bombs Handbook ]
E-mail Keith McHenry
[ How to Start a Food Not Bombs | Events | Big Bend Trip | Home ]
E-mail Keith McHenry