[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #2 in February 2006]
As a new local chapter of the international Food Not Bombs movement trying to take form in Chicago’s Humboldt Park area, can you say anything about the specific motivations of this FNB Chapter in relationship to the local area? What is the impetus for starting up a FNB in this specific location? What challenges have you encountered as you are starting the new project and what kinds of local factors are you concerned about being sensitive to as this project gets off the ground?
The impetus for starting the chapter in Humboldt Park didn’t come from any kind of overriding theory or ideology. Rather, like-minded people living in or near the neighborhood came together with the idea of starting a project that could benefit the community. Achieving that simple idea continues to prove that things aren’t as easy as one would hope. The process of turning the idea into a reality has been a process replete with challenge.
The chapter appears to be comprised of two different, yet overlapping, schools of thought:
On the one hand you have a feeling of urgency where some members argue that we need to start serving as soon as possible. There is also concern that by not being visible in the park we are losing potential outreach opportunities.
On the other hand you have members that want to be cautionary about creating a free food project in a community that may already have established free food programs and distribution services. These members would rather work with these entities in or-der to build a solid foundation through community involvement and dialogue. This is not to say that there is a split within the group, rather, there is a dynamic of urgency versus caution, with plenty of overlap to boot. This dynamic has its merits and demerits.
For instance, these two forces within the group cause a bit of vacillation when it comes to goals. The vacillation can make it appear as if we are getting little done and can have the potential effect of frustrating idealistic and compassionate people that want to be a part of a solution to ending hunger and militarism. However, when goals align, the chapter has come through with success.
Since we aren’t serving in any manner within Humboldt Park as of yet, the collective has been accepting serving gigs for various events. These smaller-scale projects have given us invaluable experience in the realities of serving hot, delicious meals outside.
In addition to serving at various events, the collective has decided to put together a community forum in Humboldt Park. Members of the collective along with established free food program and distribution network representatives, as well as anyone else who has an interest in contributing to the chapter, would come together in order to discuss how the Food Not Bombs chapter might contrib-ute to the community. There is always the chance that those gathered may come to the conclusion that Humboldt Park just doesn’t need a Food Not Bombs chapter. In that case, one would hope the collective would take a step back and look at why it wasn’t wanted or needed in the neighborhood and act accordingly. Or, the chapter could receive assistance from community members and establish it-self as another option for the hungry in Humboldt Park.
As I hope the reader would understand, the challenges of creating an inclusive and sustainable Food Not Bombs chapter within any community can be frustrating. However, if success depends upon inclusion and sustainability from the community, then the work and struggle that must take place to produce those results is necessary and desired.
If you could imagine an alternative food system (for Chicago or for your community), how would it operate and how would it be different from the current food system?
The Humboldt Park chapter doesn’t have any kind of group consensus on what would be an ideal alternative food system. Food Not Bombs is more about making a difference and a statement against waste, hunger, and militarism within our community. What demands attention is the current situation; it’s not about having some grand utopian scheme that we all agree with.
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