Food Not Bombs! started out in 1980 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when anti-nuclear activists protesting the Seabrook power plant began handing out free food to the city’s homeless (and hungry). 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. One such city is our very own Hamilton.
OPIRG’s Abeer Siddiqui interviewed Food not Bombs’ volunteer Tom Dusome – lover of biking, hater of shopping malls, and a member of the Hamilton Awkward Hockey group – for discussing with us both his role in Food Not Bombs, and the role of Food Not Bombs in fuelling radical change.
Fueling Radical Change, One Meal at a Time
When asked about the principles underlying the Hamilton chapter, Tom answered with a comment on barriers. He believes that Food not Bombs is as much an organisation supporting non-violent change, as it is about breaking barriers between protestors and onlookers. It provides a simple way of personalising an international crisis for a local audience. He goes on to say that volunteers often find themselves breaking a few personal barriers, as well.
Food not Bombs, in Tom’s words, is about ‘appreciating the source of food’. He compares the ways in which it is distributed both locally and internationally, and comments on the system’s deliberate wastefulness. Food not Bombs’ tradition of acquiring excess food from local markets and providing it, at no cost, to the city’s residents challenges this system; and further asserts that there is, in fact, enough food to go around.
Tom, who is a vegetarian, also discussed Food not Bombs’ decision to provide purely vegetarian and vegan meals, and believes that this choice serves to represent the organisation’s support for non-violent 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 – new and old – become more comfortable with the organisation. Tom supports this model and firmly believes in its lack of leaders, winners and losers.
Our final question to Tom asked him where he would like to see Food not Bombs in the future. He answered that he hopes for greater communication between its different chapters. Though this contradicts the traditional Food not Bombs’ concept of ‘Each Group is Autonomous’ he believes that it will provide a means for greater skill-sharing and a greater support network of non-violent movements across Canada.
Upon the conclusion of this interview, it became clear to us 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. It provides the general public a link to the minds and movements of change. And, as Tom said as he finished our interview, it hopes to “never let radical change go hungry”.
Find out more about Hamilton Food Not Bombs! Working Group at their opirg web site. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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