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News :: Organizing : Social Welfare
Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
27 Nov 2005
While many people spent Thanksgiving volunteering at soup kitchens, a new, weekly free food distribution project rolled on at a subsidized housing complex in Jamaica Plain.

While many people volunteer in local soup kitchens on thanksgiving, others are wondering how to make food a free and stable resource year-round in their neighborhoods. Food Not Bombs is a project that has been taking free food to the streets of Boston for the past 25 years. It is a grassroots effort with no paid staff or office. It has consisted of an amorphous flux of people and ideas. Food Not Bombers gather food that would otherwise be trashed at local markets, and give it away. One of the latest incarnations is distributing free fruits and vegetables every saturday in front of the South Street Apartments complex - a low income housing project in Jamaica Plain.
food-distro.jpg
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While many people volunteer in local soup kitchens on thanksgiving, others are wondering how to make food a free and stable resource year-round in their neighborhoods. Food Not Bombs is a project that has been taking free food to the streets of Boston for the past 25 years. It is a grassroots effort with no paid staff or office. It has consisted of an amorphous flux of people and ideas. Food Not Bombers gather food that would otherwise be trashed at local markets, and give it away. One of the latest incarnations is distributing free fruits and vegetables every saturday in front of the South Street Apartments complex - a low income housing project in Jamaica Plain.

One November 26th...

[For the whole story, please listen to the posted radio piece (a .mp3 audio file). You will need a QuickTime plug-in to hear it.]
See also:
http://www.foodnotbombs.net
http://www.insurgentdesire.org.uk/charity.htm

This work is in the public domain.
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Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
27 Nov 2005
wait so is this part of food not bombs? and whats with the contradictory links?
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
27 Nov 2005
did you listen to the story? it sounds like this is a local effort by a member of Food Not Bombs. the interview talks about how many people who receive free food, or "charity", feel nervous about receiving the food because they fear there will be an ulterior motive. it looks like the link is posted there to demonstrate that idea, at the same time that the interview also is a rally call to Food Not Bombers in the Boston area who are on the list-serve but are not out in the streets distributing food to people.
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
27 Nov 2005
What is with the "bombs" in the groups name? What does bombs have to do with it? I understand it as food being gathered from local stores and distributed to the people who need it most. What does a bomb have to do with it?
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
28 Nov 2005
How Food Not Bombs Got Its Name

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 this slogan as the name of our group, our message would be clear. Even the media, by printing our name over and over again, would be getting the political concept 'food, not bombs' to the public. No matter what they may say about us in their reporting, our name would say it all.
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
28 Nov 2005
no riot grrl i didnt listen to the story because it doesnt work on my computer. this is cool though
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
28 Nov 2005
As someone who's been doing FNB here for a while, I'd encourage anyone with an overly congratulatory attitude towards Food not Bombs to read the British article with the link posted above. I think it's great that Homefries included it; it isn't contradictory at all for us to be self-critical in terms of evaluating how effective we're being. Hunger is immediate, and if the horrible capitalist system is generating waste food, I'm happy to sort and prepare it in order to make nutritious food available to people who otherwise don't have access.
However, it would be foolish for us to think that repeating this ritual for another 25 years could end hunger, imperialist wars and all the other evils we oppose, and it's unlikely that we'll have the chance to find out, as fossil energy resources become depleted and scarcity becomes real. The average meal in this country travels 1500 miles, and the unsustainable industrial agricultural system we've become reliant upon depends on natural gas and petroleum to produce fertilizers and pesticides whose use have destroyed much of this country's topsoil in the past half-century.
It's very important that we understand the interconnected nature of human and animal suffering, global warming, pollution, starvation, and very strategic wars for control of resources like we're seeing now if we're going to successfully oppose any of them; and food is a common denominator as both a commodity and a necessity of survival. No matter how fervently we demand that the government "bring the troops home now," we need to realize that under the current system the bombs are a necessary link in the chain that brings us abundant petrochemicals which bring us food from far away produced in a manner we have no control over that is rapidly desroying the land, water, and agricultural communities.
I believe in autonomy and self-determination for all people, and in order to control our own lives and avoid oppressing others, we need to reclaim a direct connection to the land and food.
Let's face it, our project is a charity of sorts, but hopefully we can approach it as a stepping stone on the way to a free and sustainable world that we have to build now. Part of it is healthy food, part of it is learning to work without bosses and creating spaces for people to meet and break bread together, and part of it is composting all of the scraps to make beautiful soil and making plans for farms gardens and orchards here where we live.
Let's adapt, let's connect, let's get free.
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
28 Nov 2005
Amen to that, Andrew!
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
28 Nov 2005
as one who has done fnb elsewhere and supports fnb i have to say that the "amorphous flux" kind of sucks. i think unfortunately fnb isn't so good as a means to get people food(to take food from strangers in a public space with potential neighbors who may spread rumors about how you took said fruits and veggies cause obviously your poor or cheap..or worse..well that's not always an inviting scenario)
I'm glad though that some are being self critical, i hope that helps spark new ideas. speaking first hand i know that fnb can be a rewarding thing for both givers and takers, but the takers are few(from my experience). but i also know that if more effort was put in, it could really be effective. Food for Free is a good example. one might say, yeah but they've got a nice shiny truck and all. but, boy they really use a lot of food that would go to waste...and use is the operative word. i think fnb should think about forgetting the name, the history, and not be afraid of new incarnations. and i know its up to me to do my part.
Re: Amorphous Flux
29 Nov 2005
Thanks Homefries for doing this,
and thanks J. and Andrew for your comments.
It is so rare to hear any real self-criticism in Food Not Bombs. It seems to be the thing people are most scared of. For Food Not Bombs to stay vital and relevant, it needs to grow. And for it to grow, it needs to be self-critical.
That is the role of media. What is needed is a consolidated Food Not Bombs media network, built on a foundation of transperancy and redundancy.
We need to understand that there is a big difference between media and propaganda, and there is a big difference between history and mythology. For Food Not Bombs to move forward, we need to examine the complexities of our history.

Because Food Not Bombs is such an amorphous organization, there is a high degree of conformity and groupthink. Since there are no formal leaders, and no formal structures for ensuring equal access to power, power is held informally, through status, and through relationship ties. And so to raise critical issues is to put your own status in jeapordy. So most people just comform to a structure that they've had no input in creating.

Creative thinking isn't about coming up with new answers to old questions. It is about coming up with new ways of asking the questions. It is about questioning the fundemental assumptions and operating norms. If Food Not Bombs had a more comprehensive media network, it would give us a forum for asking these questions together, on an ongoing basis.

For a short period in the mid 90's, there was the beginnings of a national Food Not Bombs media network. But it was extremeley centralized. I have a large collection of "A Food Not Bombs Menu", which was the zine that Keith McHenry produced. But most of the material he published was just colorful propaganda, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. There were numerous referances to a Food Not Bombs radio network, but that too seemed to be very centralized.

In recent years, I have seen many different attempts to build a new Food Not Bombs media network. It seems like there are many different systems emerging independent of one another. I would like to form an affinity group that come up with a way to merge all these systems together into a wider Food Not Bombs media affinity group. It is good to have multiple systems, to preserve diversity. But it is also important to have some over-arching structure that will allow a national food not bombs conversation to emerge.

fnbnews.org never really got off the ground, and I hear they are looking for people to take over the project.
I just recently found out about the food not bombs listerves on riseup.net, but I am weary about starting conversations over email lists.
I have started posting to the Food Not Bombs tribe at tribe.net, http://fnb.tribe.net , and I've started posting scans of old flyers there.
I'd really like it if food not bombs had it's own WIKI.
I love the idea of having a weekly Food Not Bombs radio broadcast, compiled into an MP3 from recordings made from around the country, and dictributed over the internet.
I'm just anxious to get a real conversation started about the future of Food Not Bombs. It seems like we've been waiting for 25 years for that conversation to really start.
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
05 Dec 2005
no, food not bombs won't stop all the war and hunger, but then what single thing does? doesn't that lead to disempowerment? food not bombs has spread all over the place- even if its MAD decentralized, if you look at the number of meals that happen in a given week in, say, all of teh united states, then you'd see that quite a number of people are getting fed.

i just attended tim roust's most amazing and excellent music free skool jam at the bread and jams meal this sunday, oh wow, what a most cool thing. just by the way. . . . .

anyway, its too bad "charity" has become a dirty word in our society. . .. i think its association with condescention and pity is wholey a part of the whole "end of welfare", "welfare queen" idea-- that sort of long suffering self flagelation that is pushed as the Righteous way to live. charity was once considered an Important Christian Virtue-- its another example of how factions of the Right manipulate language, so that we are afraid to use our own words,. . . . but then again, condescention is never a good thing. i'm gald to see a food not bombs happenign in an area thats not a completely gentrified tourist attraction- i think doign ti in BOTH location sis important(but then, i'm on a BIG hiatus, because the structures taht emerged from the structure-less-ness really upset me. . . .)

and its also too bad that re-distributing food has become so associated with pushy missionaries. . . .

this is a great article with great references . . . . .thank you homefries!
Re: Free Food Distro in Jamaica Plain Rethinks Charity Bite by Bite
07 Dec 2005
To follow up katt's post, it seems to me that "charity" in our country has come to mean privileged folks helping less-privileged with no systemic analysis. I found it very interesting that in the Gaza Strip, organizations devoted to Palestinian self-help were called "charities" in English.
For anyone who's into that kind of thing, the King James Version of the Protestant Bible shows a little how the word has changed. In II Corinthians, it says "Now abideth faith, hope, and charity. But the greatest of these is charity."
Ever other later version of the Bible in current English circulation says "...The greatest of these is love."
In the 16th century, at least, charity meant a kind of nonromantic, nonfamilial, humanity wide love.
depression
03 Jun 2006
This is very interesting site...