Food Not Bombs, a group dedicated to non-violent social change through feeding the needy, continues to find itself at the center of controversy as they enter their 30th year in existence.
Groups in New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, and Connecticut have run afoul of local laws that seek to stop them from handing out free meals in public places to those in need. Though all Food Not Bombs groups are independent, they share the common goals of feeding vegetarian meals to the hungry while also protesting war and poverty.
Food Not Bombs finds food that would otherwise be discarded – from restaurants, grocery stores, and other sources and prepares meals to anyone and everyone.
The chapter in New Mexico has attracted unwanted attention from law enforcement and the Environmental Health Division in their activities. You can read a letter from the Environmental Health Division to the local Food Not Bombs group here.
The Connecticut group was recently ticketed for ignoring a cease and desist order issued by local police for serving food form an unlicensed kitchen. You can read their story here.
The Arizona group has been told by city hall that they will need a permit to continue their activities. You can read an article about their trouble in Arizona in this news article.
In Florida the group secured a legal victory when a judge ruled that handing out food in a public space was an activity protected by the First Amendment. You can read a PDF of the legal ruling here.
Regardless if you agree or disagree with their tactics, motives and politics, the group does provide an important service of serving meals to those who would otherwise go hungry. In the current economic climate the group is finding larger numbers of people who benefit from a free meal, with more than just the homeless attending their events. You can read more about Food Not Bombs at their website.
While I’m not explicitly advocating this organization or supporting their cause, I do think that serving food to persons who would otherwise go hungry is a noble cause. And while I believe that food regulations and local laws are important and serve a purpose, I pose the rhetorical question – If you are homeless, hungry, or otherwise unable to find a meal, would you rather go hungry? Or eat food that is from an “unregulated” and possibly unsafe source? To the thousands who scavenge from trash cans or decide between feeding themselves or their children, it isn’t much of a choice.