NOTE TO READER: Thanks to organizers, this is most likely the first positive coverage Food Not Bombs has ever received in the Sentinel. — Becky Johnson of HUFF
Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry keeps positive attitude
Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ — Even after 33 years, thousands of interviews, hundreds of nights spent in jail, and millions of meals served, the co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement is still enthusiastic about the organization.
Keith McHenry, who launched the group with seven friends in 1980, talked excitedly about the volunteer movement, which has since spread to 1,000 different communities around the world.
Food Not Bombs is dedicated to collecting food from stores and distributors that can’t be sold, and using it to cook and provide vegan or vegetarian meals for the hungry. Along with reducing food waste, the organization tries to inspire people to work for social change. As well as solving problems like hunger, poverty and homelessness, the group also seeks to stop wars and the destruction of the environment.
“We’re trying to stop policies that are increasing climate change,” McHenry said, adding those policies include clear cutting, and planting genetically modified food crops. “Climate change is directly leading to an increase in hunger.”
In Santa Cruz Thursday evening, as part of his “Smashing Hunger, Squashing Poverty” speaking tour, McHenry spoke to about 60 people about human needs, and to advocate for the government spend more money on social services than on bombs.
“You have severe cuts in food stamps while an increasing percent of (government) spending the most recent budget is for the military,” McHenry said. “What they’re doing is taking funding out of social services.”
At the same time, municipalities across the nation are following the lead of 50 cities and passing laws banning or limited the practice of sharing food in public, he said.
McHenry has been arrested more than 100 times for violating such laws, and faced a sentence of 25 years to life in California as part of the state’s three-strikes law.
“Even though we provide meals and groceries to thousands of people we are not a charity,” McHenry said. “Food Not Bombs is trying to inspire the public to participate in changing society.”
The talk was hosted by the Santa Cruz chapter of Food Not Bombs, which has been serving hot meals every Saturday afternoon outside the downtown post office for the past year. Volunteers gave the audience of taste of their work, by providing a full meal that included salad, rolls, vegetable stew and green beans. The meal also included fresh fruit and a choice of deserts, and volunteers encouraged people to take vegetables and other groceries with them before they left the event.
“We try to always do vegan food, but if someone gives us cooked meat we don’t refuse it,” said Abbi Samuels, a volunteer with the Santa Cruz chapter. Last month, for example, a group that provided a free Thanksgiving meal in the community donated several pans of leftover turkey she said.
Roughly 15 people volunteer regularly with the local chapter, and more are needed, she said. The work is rewarding, Samuels said.
“I got involved because I wanted to help others,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see people (eat the meals) because they are so thankful.”
There is also a huge need, she noted. “There are close to 4,000 homeless people in Santa Cruz County,” Samuels said.
Follow Sentinel correspondent Terri Morgan at www.twitter.com/soquelterri