The first thirty years of the Food Not Bombs movement.


Food Not Bombs was started in 1980 by eight young anti - nuclear activist in Cambridge, Massachusetts after one of their friends was arrested at the May 24th Occupation Attempt of Seabrook Nuclear Power Station. They started holding bake sales to raise money for legal costs and came across a discarded poster that said "it will be a great day when our schools get the money they need & the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." This brought attention to the effort and introduced the co-founders to the idea of street theater. One volunteer worked as produce worker at a local grocery called Bread and Circus and started donating the produce that couldn't sell to people living at several housing projects near the store. A huge new glass tower stood across the road from the public housing where scientists worked designing nuclear missiles. This help inspire the name Food Not Bombs.

A group of anti-nuclear activists discovered that the board of directors of the Bank of Boston were also on the boards of the company building and buying Seabrook Nuclear Power Station so the started a campaign called the First National Bank Project. The eight Food Not Bombs activists decided to help protest the policies of the bank by making a huge pot of soup, dressing as hobos and organizing a soup line outside the bank of Boston's stock holders meeting in March 26, 1981 to say that their policies could lead to an economic crisis like the Great Depression and that we could find ourselves needing to eat at soup lines again. The volunteers became concerned that there would not be enough people to finish all the food so they went to the Pine Street Inn and told the homeless about the protest. The next day Food Not Bombs shared their soup with not only the many homeless that came but many others that happened by. The volunteers agreed to step of their activity seeing how effective the event was. They started a daily routine recovering produce, bake goods and tofu donated by local shops, delivered it to community rooms at public housing projects shelters and others in need. Each evening they would set up a literature table along with a table of vegan food at Harvard Square, the Park Street Station and other public locations in the Boston area. Often people would come and drum and play other instruments and at times Food Not Bombs would organize puppet shows and other theatrical activities during the evening meals.


Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry moved to San Francisco and started a second group. He and the others agreed to share meals and literature at in Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street every Monday at noon. The director of the Haight Ashbury Soup Kitchen suggested that Food Not Bombs could get a permit by writing the Recreation and Parks Department so they did. They didn't hear back about the permit until August 15, 1988 when about 45 riot police emerged from the park arresting nine volunteers. The police told the San Francisco Chronicle that they would be making these arrests so an article appeared on Tuesday with a large photo of riot police guarding the food from the hungry. People from all over the city called to see how they could help. That next Monday over 100 people marched down Haight Street with food and banners. The police made 29 arrests and this time CNN and other media reported the news across the world. This inspired even more people to ask how they could help The next week the police made no arrests but told the media that Food Not Bombs could provide meals in an armory by Ocean Beach. Food Not Bombs rejected this suggestion pointing out that they were not a charity but seeking to change society so no one would need to eat at a soup kitchen because they had all they needed. They claimed this could be possible since so money is spent on the military that could be redirected to education, health care and other social services that would provide real security.

The next Monday was Labor Day and over 1,000 people came to risk arrest. The police stopped after making 54 arrests. The next day Mayor Art Agnos called Food Not Bombs to request a meeting. After meeting for two afternoons the mayor gave Food Not Bombs a permit.

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 organized its first gathering on October 10 - 12, 1992 in San Francisco. About 70 people from the United States and Canada met and came to consensus on the three principles:1. That the food would be vegan or vegetarian and free to everyone.
2. That each Food Not Bombs chapter would autonomous and use a process of consensus to make decisions. There would be no leaders, presidents or directors, and no headquarters. Everyone in each chapter would be encouraged to participate in the decision making including those who depend on Food Not Bombs for their meals.
3. That Food Not Bombs would not be a charity but would be dedicated to taking nonviolent direct action to change society.

After two days of meetings the group made a huge amount of food to share with those protesting the 500 anniversary of Columbus "discovering" the new world. A book "Food Not Bombs How to feed the hungry and build community" was published by New Society Press in time for the gathering where many copies were sold at cost to Food Not Bombs volunteers. Those attending returned home to help start new groups in communities near their own.

The chief of police Frank Jordan ran for mayor on an anti-homeless platform and won. He started the Matrix program arresting many homeless. Food Not Bombs volunteers filmed some of the arrests and this angered the mayor who deleted the outdoor meal permit process and obtained a court order against Food Not Bombs. The police made more arrests this time they were felonies. Food Not Bombs divided the food into thirds so after the police made their first two waves of arrest their would still be enough food for everyone. Food Not Bombs also started a program they called "Risk Arrest One Day a Month" and invited community groups to help. The police made about 700 arrest under this campaign. These arrests inspired even more people to start local Food Not Bombs groups. Mayors in other cities also made some arrests all encouraging the creation of more Food Not Bombs groups in Australia, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.

A second International gathering was held in San Francisco in the ten days leading to the 50th anniversary celebration of the founding of the United Nations. Workshops on composting, the building of Low Watt FM radio transmitters, the running of vehicles on vegetable oil and many other issues were held. Volunteers also started the first Indymedia Center at a convergence center rented near United Nations Plaza. About 600 people registered at the convergence center. Police took the gathering's low watt radio station and made hundreds of arrest for sharing meals and participating in marches, housing occupations and other actions. This encouraged another increase in interest in Food Not Bombs.


A group in Spain translated the first Food Not Bombs book and organized a book tour with Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry who met many Europeans working to stop the European Union and the World Trade Organization. The Spanish activists asked to participate in a tour of North America. The UnFree Trade Tour was organized and visited 60 cities showing a video about the World Trade Organization while encouraging participants to join in disrupting any Summits of the WTO. A year after the tour The WTO announced a summit in Seattle in November 1999. Food Not Bombs helped organize a campaign to block the summit and organized a convergence space and Indymedia Center.

At the same time Food Not Bombs organizers were building a movement in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and Latin America. Many shared hundreds of meals outside the U.S. Embassy in their country in protest to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. They also worked to support local issues. Food Not Bombs largest free concert Soupstock 2000 was held on June 4, 2000 in Delores Park, San Francisco celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Food Not Bombs with over 15,000 people coming to see the bands Fugazi, Tilt, Ali Khan Band, Bonfire Madigan, Vic Chestnutt, Michael Franti, Sleater-Kinney.

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. Food Not Bombs provide logistical support for many other anti-globalization actions. Food Not Bombs provided meals to protesters during the European Council Summit in Sweden On June 15, 2001, 19 year old Hannes Westberg, a co-founder of the Gothenburg Sweden chapter of Food Not Bombs was participating in the Reclaim the City action at Vasaplatsen when police opened fire with live ammunition, shooting three protesters.This was the first time since 1932 that Swedish police had shot live ammunition at protesters. Hannes lost a kidney and his spleen and lost 300 units of blood. He was in a coma for three months. Media reports made a fair trial impossible. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and freed after five.

In March of 2004 several Tampa Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested on charges of trespassing in Massey Park in downtown Tampa, Florida while sharing food. The F.B.I. question Food Not Bombs volunteers in Denver and other mid-western cities about their interest in participating in the proposed Food Not Bombs gathering in New York City before the Republican National Convention. The gathering was called off.

Chapters from across Mexico went to Guadalajara to provide vegan meals to anti-globalization activists protesting the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean and the European Union held from May 26-29, 2004. Nine Food Not Bombs volunteers were arrested and disappeared into the Mexican prison system. Amnesty International and other human rights groups worked for their freedom and after being jailed for almost half a year international pressure they were let out.

One November 13, 2005 Food Not Bombs volunteer Timur Kacharava stabbed to death by 8 to 10 neo-nazis while sharing meals for Food Not Bombs on Ligovsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, Russia. People started Food Not Bombs chapters all over Russia in defiance of Timor's murder. Food Not Bombs groups started animal rescue shelters in 24 cities in Slovokia around this same time. The First International Food Not Bombs Gathering outside the United States held near Transcarpathia, Ukraine at the No Border camp on August 11 - 20, 2007.

Food Not Bombs volunteers Eric McDavid Zachary Jenson and Lauren Weiner arrested by F.B.I. on January 13, 2006 and charged with Conspiracy to damage and destroy property by fire and an explosive after the F.B.I. paid an informant $65,000 to frame them. Eric McDavid was sentenced to 19 years even though he was innocent of any crimes and had been framed by an informant named Anna in a three year campaign to gain a conviction.

Food Not Bombs activists from Cainta Philippines attended a punk concert in Tarlac and then the next morning, on February 14, 2006 they set out on their way to hike at Sagada in Benguet, Northern Luzon. The eleven Filipino backpackers were arrested while hitching along the Halsema Highway. They were accused of terrorism and the murder of four soldiers stationed at an outpost. Nine of those arrested and tortured volunteered with Cainta Food Not Bombs. The campaign for their freedom was called the Free the Sagada 11.

Three Food Not Bombs cook houses were raided by the F.B.I. and local Swat teams after Minneapolis. Judge signs a warrant on August 29, 2008. Eight Food Not Bombs volunteers are charged under the states Patriots Law. They become the RNC 8 and struggle in court for several years until most of the charges were dropped.

Food Not Bombs volunteer Abe Bobman was arrested sharing food in Middletown, Connecticut on May 3, 2009. The state passed Connecticut General Statute 19A-36 on October 3, 2009 making it legal for everyone to share food with the hungry in the state.

The Orlando Police arrested Food Not Bombs volunteer Eric Montanez on April 4, 2007. Several 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, Belarus.

Police were not only arresting Orlando Food Not Bombs volunteers other Florida chapters were also having problems. Police raided the Fort Lauderdale house on February 17, 2011 accusing the volunteers of being terrorists. Ft Fort Lauderdale and other Florida cities were announcing their own laws limiting Food Not Bombs. Food Not Bombs organized a gathering in Orlando on May 21, 22, 2011 and announced a monthly one night occupation under the banner "End the Criminalization of Poverty." They also announced the organization of a World Food Not Bombs Gathering to be held in the Tampa/St Pete area in the week before the Republican National Convention. As Food Not Bombs volunteers were organizing to defend their rights in Florida activists were asking Food Not Bombs to organize a kitchen at Freedom Plaza in Washington DC at an occupation set to start on October 6, 2011. As the arrests were ending Ad Busters started to email out an announcement calling for an occupation at Wall Street. Food Not Bombs posted both occupations on their website and encourage all volunteers to join.

Food Not Bombs volunteers help organize and fed occupations in New York, Washington DC and many other cities. The occupations have inspired another wave of interest in Food Not Bombs. At the same time another Food Not Bombs book was published by See Sharp Press called "HUNGRY FOR PEACE - How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs."

Please visit these pages to find out how you can help us work for peace and justice.


The Three Principles of Food Not Bombs

HUNGRY FOR PEACE - How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs

You are also invited to visit:
Thirty Years of Cooking For Peace, a history of the Food Not Bombs Movement

Food Not Bombs
P.O. Box 424, Arroyo Seco, NM 87514 USA

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