Consider this: Before food reaches your table, it is produced and handled by farmers, co-ops, manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, and retailers. Some perfectly edible food is discarded for a variety of business reasons at every step. In the average city, approximately 10% of all solid waste is food. This is an incredible total of 46 billion pounds nationally per year, or just under 200 pounds per person per year. Estimates indicate that only 4 billion pounds of food per year would be required to completely end hunger in America. Clearly there is an abundance of edible, recoverable food being thrown away.
To recover this edible food and use it to feed people, three key elements must be combined. First, the food must be collected. Second, it must be prepared in a form appropriate for consumption. Third, the food must be made easily accessible to those who are hungry.
The reason this is not already happening is no accident. We do not have a democratic say in how food is produced or distributed. People would certainly elect to eat, but in hierarchical economies, the threat of job loss allows owners to keep wages low. An underclass results from such policies that encourage domination and violence. In our society, it is acceptable to profit from other's suffering and misery.
Today, according to the Harvard School of Public Heath, people who are living below the poverty line (less than $9,069 annual income for family of three) are going hungry at least once a month, and over 30 million people are going hungry on a regular basis. Astonishingly, less than 15% of the hungry are homeless. Moreover, the explosion of hunger has outstripped the ability of existing hunger relief programs, both governmental and private, to satisfy this crucial need.
Many do not realize that the demographics of "The Hungry" have changed dramatically. Over the last decade, they have become:
Clearly, the majority of people going hungry today are not the stereotyped street person as the media would have you believe. Hungry people are children and single parents (mostly women), the working poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the chronically ill, and those a on fixed income (such as veterans and people with physical and mental challenges/differences/disabilities). All of these people find themselves in the clutches of oppressive poverty even while trying to improve their condition. In addition to the collection and distribution of surplus food to help solve this problem, Food Not Bombs encourages vegetarianism. If more people were vegetarian and demanded organically grown, locally produced foods, this would encourage organic farming practices and support smaller farms. This in turn would make it easier to decentralize the means of food production and to create democratic control over the quality of the food produced and the stewardship of the land. More people can be fed from one acre of land on vegetarian rather than meat based diet. Our society's current meat-based diet allows for huge "agribusinesses" and dependency on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in the declining nutritional value of the food produced and also destruction of the environment. All massed-produced meats in this country are full of chemicals, drugs, enhancers, and preservatives and all milk is contaminated with radioactive fallout. Vegetarianism would be better for the environment, consume less resources, and be healthier for us. While we encourage awareness of vegetarianism for political and economic reasons, this policy also has several more immediate benefits. The potential for problems with food spoilage are greatly reduced when dealing strictly with vegetables, and members of the group tend to eat a more healthy diet as they learn more about vegetarianism. Also, Teaching people about the health benefits of a vegetarian diet actually creates a healthy, caring attitude towards ourselves, others, and the planet as a whole. Therefore, all of the food we prepare is strictly from vegetable sources, that is, no meat, dairy, or eggs.. People know and trust this standard for Food Not Bombs food whenever they come to our table.
It will take imagination and work to create a world without bombs. Food Not Bombs recognizes our part as providing sustenance for people at demonstrations and events so that they can continue participating in the long-term struggle against militarism. We also make bringing our message to other progressive movements part of our mission. We attend other organizations' events and support coalition building whenever possible. We work against the perspective of scarcity which causes many people to fear cooperation among groups. They believe that they must keep apart to preserve their resources, so we try to encourage the feelings of abundance and the recognition that if we cooperate together, all become stronger.
Being at the center of the action with our food is part of our vision. Sometimes we organize the event; sometimes we provide food at other organizations' events. Providing food for more than one day is more than just a good idea, it is a necessity. Either the movement can seek food services from the outside and be dependent upon businesses which may not be progressive, or we can provide for ourselves. Clearly, it is Food Not Bombs' position that providing for our own basic needs, in ways that comprehensively support the movement, is far more empowering. We have provided food at long term direct actions such as the annual Peace Encampment sponsored by the American Peace Test at the Nevada Nuclear Weapons Test Site; tent cities which highlight homelessness and hunger in San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.; and for the regular feeding of the homeless in highly visible locations in many cities throughout the country.
During 1980, a group of friends who were active in the protests against
the Seabrook nuclear power project were searching for a way to make the
connection between the issues of nuclear power and militarism. One of
our many activities was to spray paint anti-nuclear and anti-war slogans
on public buildings and sidewalks using stencils. One of our favorites
was to spray paint the words "MONEY FOR FOOD NOT FOR BOMBS" on the
sidewalk at the exits to grocery stores in our neighborhood. One night,
after an outing of spray painting, we had the inspiration to use the
slogan "FOOD NOT BOMBS" as our name. By having a slogan, the message of
our group would be clear, and by repeating our name over and over again
even the media would be getting the political concept of food, and not
bombs, to the public. We would not have to proselytize because out name
would say it all. As we arrived with the food, people would say, ³Hey,
here comes Food Not Bombs.²
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