Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry was born in Frankfurt, West Germany in 1957 while his father was stationed in the army there. In 1958, his family moved to Logan, Utah where his father got a job with Morton-Thiokol, testing highly destructive Minuteman intercontinental nuclear missiles. Once he attained his Masters in Zoology, his father took up a position as a ranger with the National Park Service. Keith had an idyllic childhood roaming the wilderness in America's National Parks like Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and the Everglades.
Keith's paternal great, great, great grandfather was Dr. James McHenry, who signed the United States Constitution as a delegate of the colony of Maryland, served as a general in the Revolutionary War and as Secretary of War under George Washington. He also initiated the founding of the United States military as Secretary of War under President John Adams. Keith's maternal grandfather was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army during World War II and helped plan the fire bombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His father's mother had two uncles, Bob and Charlie Ford, who became famous for killing the popular outlaw Jesse James.
In 1974, Keith began studying painting at Boston University and was employed part-time as a tour guide and museum curator. He also worked as a sign painter and ran a successful advertising firm in Boston with clients such as The Boston Red Sox and the Celtics Basketball team. Keith was the recipient of several Clio Awards. His anti-nuclear war street art became the subject of an Off Broadway play called Murder Now! and the film, The Sidewalk Sector.
At the same time, Keith studied with Howard Zinn and became active with the Clamshell Alliance making several trips to Seabrook, New Hampshire to protest nuclear power. He organised actions in the major cities on the east coast of the United States, and garnered his political views by taking action against nuclear arms, wars in El Salvador and the Middle East, while promoting the virtues of alternative energy and organic gardening.
In 1980, Keith and seven friends started the first Food Not Bombs chapter in Cambridge, Massachusets. At first more of a street performance than a protest, the group provided entertainment and vegetarian meals in Harvard Square and the Boston Commons after making deliveries of uncooked food to most of the housing projects and shelters in the area. After eight years of serving free food in New England, Keith moved to San Francisco where he started a second Food Not Bombs group. He was one of nine volunteers arrested for sharing food and literature at Golden Gate Park on August 15, 1988. In the following years, Keith was arrested over 100 times for serving free food in city parks and spent over 500 nights in jail. He faced 25 years to life in prison under the California Three Strikes Law but in 1995, Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission brought about his release. He was invited to support Food Not Bombs in Florida when the Ft Lauderdale police raided the Food Not Bombs house. The federl appeals court had also ruled that the city of Orlando could limit Food Not Bombs to sharing meals at Lake Eola Park to twice a year and other Florida cities were introducing meal limit laws. Keith ended his tour in Orlando and was arrested along with 28 others in June 2011. He was freed after just 17 days in jail.
For the last fifteen years, Keith has been touring the world and starting up new Food Not Bombs groups and providing logistical support to existing chapters. In 2005, he helped coordinate America's largest food relief effort organizing shipments of food, clothing and other supplies for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has been investigating and infiltrating Food Not Bombs groups across the United States often disrupting Keith's work. ABC TV's program 20/20 claimed Keith was one of twenty people planning to destroy New York City during the Republican National Convention in 2004. He was also taken off a flight from Heathrow to Chicago by Homeland Security. As America's post 9/11 paranoia amplified, so did the number of times Keith was blacklisted by the establishment being fired from several jobs at the request of military contractors like Raytheon Missile Systems.
On a personal level, Keith has suffered extreme painand is healing from fibromyalgia caused by police violence. San Francisco Police Intelligence officers stripped Keith of his clothes, lifted him by his limbs smashing him to the concrete floor of their office until his ligaments and tendons were ripped. He was pushed into a tiny cage called a ."Stress Position Box." hanging from the ceiling of their office and held in the dark for 3 days on three occasions. Even so he continues to dedicate his life to supporting Food Not Bombs.
Presently, Keith focuses his attention helping provide food to families struggling because of the global economic crisis. He speaks at book stores, colleges and universities about the Food Not Bombs movement, as well as helps organize protests, and cooks with local Food Not Bombs groups as he travels. He maintains a Food Not Bombs website and provides assistance to local chapters facing arrest, seeking information or requesting literature and logistical support. He also helps the public participate with Food Not Bombs, directing hungry people and potential volunteers to local chapters that feed the hungry each week in over 1,000 cities around the world.
Accolades and credits for
Keith include the 1999 Local Hero Award by the San Francisco Bay Guardian,
the Resister of the Year in 1995 and the Justice Studies Association's
2012 Noam Chomsky Award. He is co-founder of the No Police
Brutality Day protests and helped start Indymedia (Independent Media
Centre) and the Homes Not Jails squatters' movement. He also coined the
term freegan. Keith is co-author and illustrator of "Food Not Bombs:
How to Feed the Hungry and Build Community." His book has sold over
10,000 copies in English, 3,000 in Spanish, 3,000 in Italian and was just
published in Russian. Keith has a new book "HUNGRY FOR PEACE
How you can help end poverty and war with Food Not Bombs"
He has appeared in Amnesty
International's Human Rights Report," A People's History of The United States" by Howard Zinn and been interviewed and
recorded in many journals, books and several documentary films. He is
currently writing another book as he tours the
world speaking about the movement.
Keith lives with his partner and fellow Food Not Bombs volunteer, Abbi Samuels, in Santa Cruz, California and Taos, New Mexico where they volunteer with the Food Not Bombs Free Skool. He enjoys tending to their gardens, sharing meals with the hungry, maintaining one of the movement's websites and helping coordinate logistics for Food Not Bombs. Keith also draws, paints, and writes about social justice issues.
He would be excited about sharing his experience with your community.
Keith has given the presentation at many venues in the past few years
including, at the University of Calabar Nigeria, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
and Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, University of Tubingen, York College, University of Wageningen, University of Northampton, Pitzer College, Sonoma State, San Francisco State,
Dartmouth College, Hampshire College, Harvard University College of Law, Boston University, Williams College, Swarthmore,
Vanderbuilt, Brandeis University, Truman University,
MIT, The University of Washington,
Oberlin College, Hendrix College, Guilford College, The San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair, the University
of Northern Arizona and the World College. He also gave presentations at
a number of other locations including the University of Vermont, the
Sustainable Peace Fair, Reed College, The Building a New World
Conference in Radford, Virginia, The University of Oregon, the Rawspririt Festival
in Sedona and Prestcott, Arizona and the Victoria Anarchist Book Fair. He was also a
speaker at the Beyond Borders: Education, Immigration and Cultural
Exchange with the New Mexico High School Youth Conference.
Keith also spoke at the National Animal Rights Conference, the Michigan Human Rights Conference, at Harvard University
School of Law, Ohio Wesleyan University, Princeton University and All
power to the Imagination Conference in Sarasota, Florida and many other confrences and universities.
Please consider inviting Mr. McHenry to speak to your community.
Speaking fees are reasonable and donated to Food Not Bombs. Your
community will find Keith's message hopeful, motivating and full of
useful information sure to be an inspiration to everyone. Schools have
provided honorariums from $900 to several thousand dollars which Keith donates to Food Not
Bombs. To schedule your presentation call Keith at 575-770-3377 or
email Keith at
firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements. You can call us toll
free at 1-800-884-1136. We will give a free presentation for any Food
Not Bombs group. Please contact us for more details.
Keith marches at WTO action, Cancun Mexico
Keith working in the Food Not Bombs Free Skool garden
|Listen to Keith's lecture at Oberlin College||Keith's art and designs|
|The Food Not Bombs Menu and Keith's daily work||Keith gets arrested for feeding the hungry|
|Keith's local chapter Taos Food Not Bombs||Homeland Security, Police and FBI spying of Food Not Bombs|
|Kate Byrd interviews Keith on KRZA||Keith Speaks on Taos Currents with host Mike Tilley|
|Media Interviews||August 3, 2007 FBI Letter about Keith on the Terrorist Watch List|
|Wisconsin Network For Peace and Justice Speaker's Bureau||Photos about Keith's Presentations|