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October 8, 2014
Every Friday for the last ten months, groceries have been brought out to Malcolm X Park for community residents to take home. Not even our winter of brutal snowstorms brutality managed to derail the 4:30 afternoon distro. Every week, veggies, fruits, and bread are free for the taking, and a hot dish is shared. But the latest incarnation of West Philly Food Not Bombs has definitely raised some eyebrows.
For starters, let us keep something in mind: Food Not Bombs (FNB) is not an organization. It is an idea that has inspired autonomous chapters to spring up all over the world. There is no one way to run a chapter, since each one should naturally reflect the energy and goals of its participants. And if membership starts to ebb and interest gets directed elsewhere, there is no shame in an FNB group going on hiatus or closing up shop.
So when the long standing distros at Cedar Park and A-Space came to an end late last Spring, never to resume, many thought FNB had vanished. But it was not long before the banner was once again raised. This time, children barely over four feet tall were waving the flag. It may seem like totally out of left field for a Food Not Bombs chapter to be run primarily out of Huey Elementary School’s after-school program, but a little background helps demystify the situation.
The after-school program responsible is part of the Freedom School Program of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF). The CDF has long been deeply connected to many people and partnerships of the civil rights movement (from wherewhich the Freedom School name is inspired) and has pushed an activist agenda in extracurricular education for decades. At Huey, the program aligned itself with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Community Partnerships for funding and staffing. Radical red flag? Probably. But nonetheless, enrollment began, and a director was hired who, incidentally, had her own youthful involvement with Food Not Bombs (as well as extensive other and ongoing activist involvements).
When the Huey scholars decided that they wanted to address hunger in the community, reviving the neighborhood FNB chapter was proposed and discussed. Consultations took place in the community, especially with some of the A-Space denizens, who have almost always been a backbone of local FNB activity. Could this work with youth involved? In October, the experiment began. As was mentioned, there has not been a missed park date.
This time, children barely over four feet tall were waving the flag. It may seem like totally out of left field for a Food Not Bombs chapter to be run primarily out of Huey Elementary School’s after-school program, but a little background helps demystify the situation.
Friday mornings, a driver and ride buddy meet at the A-Space and head toward the produce distribution center. Donations are corralled and brought back to the Ahimsa House, a nonviolence center at 5007 Cedar Avenue, curated by the same Freedom School director mentioned earlier. At 3PM, the young Huey scholars, along with some staff members, walk down to the house and start cooking a meal to share. Community volunteers also join in with the preparation—sorting, washing, supply gathering, cleaning, and cooking—and on days where school is not in session, they run the show. By 4:30PM, the produce is at the park and the young people distribute food.
The experiment has undoubtedly planted many positive seeds. But sadly, the Freedom School funding has run out. The West Philly FNB chapter is once again in the hands of its community volunteers. The joy of engaging in action with bright young lights has brought new adult faces around to the chapter and a new core of passionate Food-Not-Bombers has taken shape. There are still familiar faces. The bread fairy still delivers lovely artisanal treats and loaves. Some of the Food not Frack cast have stepped into weekly roles. The good people at the Reclaim Printshop (4820 Baltimore Ave) have helped screen shirts and have cooked several dishes. Still, much help is needed and volunteers are welcome with wide open arms.
Outside of the weekly distro in the park, solidarity feedings are still happening. Opposition demonstrations to the Keystone XL pipeline, Monsanto, and disastrous fracking practices have all been catered by cheery FNB members. Most recently, a dedicated FNB soul pedaled a trailer with refreshments alongside the May Day marchers. We are always willing to come support your activism! Please reach out to us. If we can, we will be there.
There is still a lot to do. For instance, we need more volunteers to bottom-line cooking once a month. We need to diversify our sources of food (we are talking with WholeFoods currently…Trader Joe’s! You out there? Holler!!). We always welcome fresh ideas and new energy, so be in touch!
Contact us on facebook: West Philly Food Not Bombs
Or in person: Malcolm X Park 4:30PM, every Friday
Open Meet Ups: 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 7:30PM @ Ahimsa House (5007 Cedar Ave)
A point of clarification: There are actually two chapters of FNB in West Philly. LAVA Space (4134 Lancaster Ave) is home base for North Philly Food Not Bombs. They do produce distribution at LAVA on Thursday afternoons at 4 and feed a hot meal at 18th and Vine (across the street from the family court building) every Sunday at 5:30PM. Their contact info is email@example.com. Check them out, too! There are lots of ways to get involved!