Food Not Bombs serving up solutions
In the late 1970s and 1980s, a movement called FNB began, which was geared towards feeding society, while at the same time, providing a critique of how much money was being spent on war when a significant portion of the population was starving. The food used was reclaimed and/or donated, so corporate interests were in no way favoured. Throughout the years, Food Not Bombs (FNB) has grown internationally with chapters being established all over the World.
FNB Niagara is our local sector, and works hand in hand with Brock University’s own Ontario Public Interest Research Group (O.P.I.R.G.), which offers a wide variety of services and resources to the Brock community in regards to anti-oppression work and social justice.
“I got involved with FNB Niagara because I am interested in several of the social justice issues that the movement attempts to address, like the military industrial complex, poverty in the face of abundance, animal rights and environmental issues,” said Jaimie Godard, FNB volunteer and local community activist. “FNB provides students with free meals, volunteer opportunities, information, catering events/fundraisers/protests and support from a network of people striving for positive social change on a local and global level.”
Students, former students, community activists and members make up the volunteers who support FNB Niagara from year to year. Contributions can be made in many ways, as some volunteer duties include food pick-up, cooking, serving, clean-up, advertising and helping to plan events. For example, once a month, a few FNB members volunteer with the Live Free Collective at The Raft, a local youth shelter, cooking and serving vegan food to those in need. No matter how individuals choose to help, their efforts never go unacknowledged or unappreciated.
Also, the individuals and groups who generously donate the food cannot be forgotten. This list includes The St. Catharines Farmers Market, The Peanut Mill, De la Terre, Brock’s Develop. Integrate. Grow. (D.I.G.) and a handful of supportive locals who often give from their own gardens. When produce, bread and other food cannot be sold by these outlets, a collection is arranged so that FNB can pick them up at a scheduled time. In doing this, more personal relationships are formed between local providers and FNB, which leads to larger amounts donated, better quality food on a more regular basis.
This year, FNB Niagara has been lucky enough to have more students sign up to volunteer through a course that runs at Brock called Foundations in Service Learning (SOCI 1F99), which examines philosophies, social histories and politics of community service, combined with experiential learning and practices of self-reflection on community engagement.
“I think FNB holds a valuable role at Brock because it raises awareness about issues that can sometimes be overlooked in an academic setting,” said Godard. “It provides a means of putting theory into practice. Students not only learn the reasons why we do what we do, but also have the chance to take action. I hope others will get more involved, because our individual choices can have a profound effect on the lives of others.”
The involvement within FNB Niagara this year has resulted in many accomplishments. Since April, healthy vegan meals have been cooked and served in Montebello Park in St. Catharines every Sunday, which generates a sense of unity. As well, FNB Niagara has catered several events, including Take Back the Night, Vegan Super Friends and numerous O.P.I.R.G. fundraisers.
Ensuring that the meals provided by FNB are vegan is of huge importance, which makes them different from other organizations that aim to feed the hungry. The treatment of animals is something that FNB feels very passionately about.
“It is important that the food is vegan because it is non-violent, inclusive and recognizes the oppression and suffering of non-human animals, as well as the inefficiency of raising animals for food (you can feed more people with the grain that is used for raising animals). The negative impact that animal products have on human health and the environment are also a big part of it,” said Godard.
More recently, FNB Niagara has been in contact with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (O.C.A.P.) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (C.U.P.E.) in regards to the possibility of organizing an event that will allow them to serve more people than they are used to catering to. FNB Niagara is also working with the Toronto and London sectors to assist in providing food and volunteers for the occupation of Bay St. in Toronto in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Aside from the larger societal accomplishments, being involved with such a charitable organization provides one with personal gratification as well, as relationships are formed and people are drawn together.
“On a personal level, it means a great deal. I have met and connected with so many wonderful people while sharing much needed meals with some of the less fortunate members of our community,” Godard said.
Through the aims of FNB, one can see that as a whole, the public needs to focus resources on solving problems like hunger, homelessness and poverty while seeking an end to war. The volunteer angle suggests that society is more than capable of coming together out of their own freewill to make positive changes in our communities.
“I have found, along with many others, that FNB is a great outlet for the frustration that stems from living in a society that values building weapons over feeding, sheltering and educating its own people,” Godard said.
To learn more about FNB, upcoming events and how you can get involved by volunteering your time, please check out foodnotbombs-niagara.weebly.com. Even the slightest contribution makes a great difference
Amanda Mihaljev/Brock University