[Letters] A radical vision for a world without hunger and bombsIn 1980, Food Not Bombs originated from Cambridge, Massachusetts, when anti-nuclear activists protesting the Seabrook power plant began handing out free food to the city’s homeless people.
Their message was simple: money for food, not bombs. In the thirty years that followed, autonomous Food Not Bombs chapters, built on the same underlying principle, formed in over a thousand different cities around the world.
In an attempt to learn more about the organization, I decided to interview a volunteer from Food Not Bombs. FNB’s excellence in presenting an international crisis to a local audience particularly interested me, as I am planning on pursuing my bachelors in the field of international relations. I would like to sincerely thank Abeer Sidisique for telling me about her role in Food Not Bombs and the role of Food Not Bombs as a whole in Canadian society.
When I asked Sidisique about principles underlying the Hamilton, Ontario, chapter, she had a comment on barriers. She believes that Food Not Bombs is as much an organization supporting nonviolent change, as it is about breaking barriers between protestors and onlookers. She went on saying that volunteers often find themselves breaking a few personal barriers, as well.
According to Sidisique, Food Not Bombs is about “appreciating the source of food.” She compares local and international food distribution methods, and comments on the system’s deliberate wastefulness.
Food Not Bombs’ tradition - acquiring excess food from local markets and donating them to the city’s residents - challenges this system; and further asserts that there is, in fact, enough food to go around.
As a vegetarian, Sidisique explained about Food Not Bombs’ decision to provide purely vegetarian and vegan meals.
The organization believes that by serving vegetarian meals, it’s easy to explicitly represent Food Not Bombs’ support for nonviolent movements around the world. It is also a decision based on providing healthy choices, and garnering a larger audience.
Like all Food Not Bombs’ chapters around the world, the Hamilton group is run on a formal consensus basis. In this way, power is distributed equally among all members; everyone has a say in any decision made and it lets all volunteers feel more comfortable with the organization. Sidisique supports this model and firmly believes in its lack of leaders, winners and losers.
My final question to Miss Sidisique was where she would like to see Food Not Bombs in the future. As an enthusiastic volunteer, Miss Sidisique hopes for greater communication between its different chapters.
Though this contradicts the traditional Food Not Bombs concept of “each group is autonomous,” she still believes that it will provide the means for greater skill-sharing and a greater support network of nonviolent movements not only across Canada but also across the world.
Upon the conclusion of this interview, it gradually became clear to me that Food Not Bombs cannot be defined as a charity.
Though it does supply food to the homeless and has responded to crises such as the Asian tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina, it is more of a support group which provides the general public a link to the minds and movements of change. Sidisique said as she finished my interview, “never let radical change go hungry.”
student at McMaster University in Canada
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