Starting a new year and looking to get involved with your community? Want to prevent food waste, build mutual aid and support those in need in your local area?

Then read on, because getting involved with Foot Not Bombs in 2023 may be for you.

What is Food Not Bombs?

Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer movement sharing free vegan and vegetarian meals for anyone who needs them. They currently operate in over 1,000 cities in 65 countries, protesting war, poverty, and environmental destruction through the use of mutual aid to build solidarity in local communities. They also provide food and supplies to the survivors of natural disasters, and people participating in occupations, strikes, marches and other protests. Food Not Bombs isn’t a charity but a community-run mutual aid project dedicated to taking nonviolent direct action. They have no headquarters or positions of leadership and use a consensus process for all decision-making. 

Food Not Bombs started after the May 24th 1980 protest to stop the Seabrook Nuclear power station, north of Boston in New Hampshire, USA. The people that started Food Not Bombs shared their first full meal at a protest outside the Federal Reserve Bank on March 26, 1981 during the stockholders meeting of the Bank of Boston as part of these actions. The eight founders were Jo Swanson, Mira Brown, Susan Eaton, Brian Feigenbaum, CT, Jessie Constable, Amy Rothstien and Keith McHenry.

Since then, Food Not Bombs has grown exponentially, both because people can recognise the need in their immediate areas, and because it is an accessible way to begin building solidarity within local communities. Anyone can start a group with their friends without the need for a leader, the concept is simple and, because food is often recovered from local businesses, groups don’t need to raise large amounts of money to operate. 

Food Not Bombs chapters can be found in high-visibility public spaces where those in need can easily find them. This visibility also means that people who want to get involved with making change, but aren’t sure where to start, can find an accessible way to get involved once they come across a Food Not Bombs stall.

How it works

Food Not Bombs groups recover food that would have been discarded and share it as a way of protesting systemic injustice and poverty, directly meeting community needs and preventing food waste. Local chapters often arrange the collection of produce, bread and other food that can’t be sold from shops, bakeries, and markets. This helps them build personal relationships with local food providers, enabling them to collect larger amounts of better-quality food on a regular basis. This food is then used to prepare vegan meals, which volunteers share with anyone who needs them while providing accessible literature on the need for systemic change and ways to achieve it.

Food Not Bombs aim to inspire the public to participate in changing society; they focus resources on solving problems like hunger, homelessness and poverty as an active example of how the allocation of resources towards war and climate breakdown are political choices, not necessities. There are no leaders in order to show how communities can work collectively to provide the essential needs of food, housing, education and healthcare to all.

Food Not Bombs provides more than free, healthy vegan and vegetarian food. We provide an opportunity for everyone to participate in solving the most important problems facing our world. We empower the public to take action and resist corporate domination and exploitation. We also provide food and logistical support to often marginalized people and social movements by feeding striking workers and their families, people participating at protests, and organizing community projects.

Food Not Bombs operate with three core principles:

Always vegan or vegetarian and free to everyone

All food is vegan or vegetarian and free to anyone without restriction. At times, chapters do get donations of dairy and meat products. They redirect these to non-vegetarian soup kitchens as they believe eating is more important than being politically pure. However, they never cook with animal products themselves and only share bread that might have dairy when it’s not possible to know for sure.

Each chapter is independent and autonomous and makes decisions using the consensus process

There are no leaders, presidents or directors, and no headquarters. Everyone in each chapter is encouraged to participate in the decision making including those who depend on Food Not Bombs for their meals. No one volunteer is empowered to tell the rest of the group how it is to operate.

Food Not Bombs is not a charity and is dedicated to non-violent social change

Food Not Bombs is dedicated to using nonviolent direct action to change society so no one needs to stand in line to eat at a soup kitchen. 

Food Not Bombs supports sharing, respect, peace, cooperation, dignity, a nurturing of the environment, and most of all, optimism at a time when many are in despair. We encourage a “Do It Yourself” feeling of empowerment and a rejection of the need to solve problems through violence – violence of war, violence of poverty and violence against animals and the earth. We show that it is not necessary to waste so much of the food that we work so hard to grow, but organizing a voluntary system of food recovery and redistribution. No one should need to rely on a soup kitchen or charity when we have food in great abundance. We work to end the domination of corporate power and provide access to participation in making decisions that affect our life and future. Food is a right, not a privilege!

Getting involved

Because each Food Not Bombs chapter is autonomous, everyone is encouraged to get started in their local area. Beforehand, check to see if one is already active in your community and try and work with anything pre-existing you find. If there used to be a group in your area that has now stopped, let the Food Not Bombs network know and you start a new chapter. You can also invite a Food Not Bombs group in a neighbouring community to help you get started. 

Once you have made the decision to start a local Food Not Bombs group, pick a meeting date, time, and place and gather together everyone interested to talk about what you would like to do. You might start with a group of friends, or members of an existing group, or it could be people who respond to posters and emails announcing your intentions.

From here, the Food Not Bombs network have compiled resources to help you get started, including:

But, ultimately, the concept is simple. Connect with your local businesses and community members, cook, share, and discuss ways solidarity can be built in your community. It’s an accessible way to get started if you want to be more involved in your local area this year, so good luck!