Food Not Bombs movement grows in Tampa Bay
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05/13/11 Andrea Lypka
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Co-founder Keith McHenry at the Cafe Bohemia in St. Pete.


photo by Andrea Lypka

Across Florida the Food Not Bombs movement is going through a revival. It may be due to unemployment, foreclosures, and restrictions on homeless feedings in Orlando. In Tampa Bay new Food Not Bombs chapters are formed and volunteers share food and literature in support of the Orlando volunteers who got arrested for handing out poor to the homeless and needy. The St. Petersburg chapter is growing fast, says volunteer Alex Nadeau. He quit his corporate job and now works for free: he feeds the homeless and teaches yoga classes. Nadeau organizes community events full time.

“I just, I just had enough of it [my corporate job], you know, we have the Free Skool going on, we have other community events going on like the Food Not Bombs which is really cool,” says Nadeau.

Nadeau says that the Food Not bombs movement is more than sharing food with the homeless. He hopes these community events will erase the stigma of homelessness and bring together the community.

“Food Not Bombs is something you can do to help. It is something you can do to help influence your community, get people aware, have a lot of fun with your friends; we play games like ninja... It is just a way to have a picnic with your big human family.”

Food Not Bombs volunteers collect food that can't be sold in stores. Then, they cook and hand out vegan meals and literature to the community. Co-founder Keith McHenry says that the purpose of these events is to raise awareness about spending tax dollars on nuclear weapons and the military.

“For instance, I the US every 50 cents in a dollar is spent. Rather than spending that money on the military. And if we diverted some of that money we spend on the military towards things that keep Americans secure we think that this would be much better. So rather that the 720 billion a year military budget, we should spend some of that money on education, healthcare…” he said.

Despite a shortage of funding for much needed social service programs in Florida, some communities across the state have passed regulations against feeding needy people in public. Orlando only allows a group to do two public feedings per year. McHenry says that restrictions like those passed in Orlando on April 12, 2011, could trickle down to Tampa Bay.

“While at first sight it seems tragic that governments make anti-food not bombs laws and laws against homeless, my feeling is that it will inspire greater resistance. And it already had an impact with the Orlando case where the Eleventh Circuit Court [of Appeals] ruled against our organization claiming that we would require to request permits and we would be limited to share food twice a year per park.”

Nick Emery has volunteered at Food Not Bombs events in St. Petersburg and Orlando. He says he was encouraged to start his own Food Not Bombs chapter in Tarpon Springs because of the hard line taken by the City of Orlando.

“Even though it is relatively small town, there are 20,000 people living there, there is actually a quite large homeless problem and there are many working poor as well. I just think this is something the city could use and I have the time and privilege to make it happen,” Emery said.

Sharing free food and literature with the community comes with a price: volunteers sometimes risk being arrested. But Emery says has a plan to overcome possible arrests because sharing food is not a crime.

“Fist, I would inform the police, that sharing free food is not a regulated activity by the government. But if we were continued to be harassed, we would start by possible talking to a lawyer… we would be open in resisting in any ways necessary.”

The Food Not Bombs movement is active in over 1,000 cities in the world. For more information, visit foodnotbombs.net.

The next Food Not Bombs City Hall Action event is on Wednesday, May 18 at 400 South Orange Avenue and the corner of South Street in downtown Orlando.

Listen to Last Call call-in show with Keith McHenry

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