Awakin Calls » Keith McHenry » Transcript


Keith McHenry: Abundance and Cooperation Toward Peace and Justice

Rahul - Hello everyone I am your host for our weekly global awakening call, welcome and thank you all for joining us. The purpose of these calls is to share and tell stories, stories that help plant the seeds for a more compassionate society while fostering our own inner transformation, we do this by holding conversations with guest speakers from all walks of life who inspire us through there actions to be and live in a more service oriented way. Behind the scenes of these calls is an entire of service space volunteers who's invisible work allows us to hold this space. Today our guest speaker is none other than the amazing Mr. Keith McHenry someone who embodies the theme of todays call which is abundance and cooperation towards peace and justice. Thanks again for joining today’s call what we would like to do is start this call as always with a minute’s silence to anchor ourselves. (Pause)

We welcome Aryae Coppersmith who will be our moderator for our call with Keith today and at the top of the hour we will invite our circle of sharing to be open to invite all questions and reflections. This weeks theme is abundance and cooperation for peace and justice and our speaker this weeks says that not withstanding our climate crisis political crisis and economic crisis quotes I still believe the human spirit is at a point of global transformation my 36 years of sharing vegan meals under the banner food not bombs has shown me that people can rise up and change society. The thought is how have your experiences with serving others helped you shift to a frame of abundance and help trigger broader change. We have the pleasure of Araye today who I thought we could start our call today by asking him a question, to kick of our circle. Aryae is another person that imbodies this theme as the founder of one world lights which is a community of global citizens that have a shared vision of supporting a course of change for humanity, he does this by hosting wisdom circles where people from around the world gather via video conference to share inspiration, wisdom, knowledge, support and more. He is also the author of a book titled holly beggars that chronicles his own journey with the Rabi Shlomo Carlebach min 1960 San Francisco. He also holds an MA in Humanistic physiology and was ordained as a Jewish spiritual teacher.

Array you have been doing a lot of work around this theme of abundance and cooperation towards peace and justice particularly with all this inter-faith work that you have done, I am curious on what your reflections are from so many years of how this kind of service actually triggers a shift to abundance that in turn ripples towards peace.

Aryae - Thanks you for the introduction. You know as I am approaching todays conversation and thinking about abundance I am thinking Keiths situation right now, there he is standing on the campus of Orange Coast College at Veg Fest and all of those people around him where so many volunteers setting up stands and I understand this is mostly triggered by the work of Food not Bombs so Rahul when you are asking me about abundance and how service triggers that what is really fascinating to me is how service brings together people from all over to do more service to bring together yet more service to bring together yet more people to more service I am just fascinated by this concept or how the ripple effects are continual. I am looking forward to our conversation this morning. I would like to say a few words initially introducing Keith, he is driven by this amazing g vision of how food not bombs can change people in society and this has been going on for 35 years. His work started in this in 1980 when he was a college student he was at an anti nuclear protest and he saw this sign which said it will be a great day when the schools get all the money they need and airforce has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomb. Keith set out to make that a reality, Food Not Bombs today has over 1000 chapters worldwide and are self organizing by volunteers and that structure is particularly powerful because it can keep going, it does not need any kind of central organization of fundraising. Food not Bombs salvages surplus food that would otherwise go to waste and they prepare it and serve it for free in parks in front of post offices at protests and also distribute flyers and encourage people who come to get involved in conversation and connections and think about being part of a new emerging society where people are dealing with thinking about a post capitalist world. He founded Food not Bombs in San Francisco and then other places around the world, he has been arrested so many times that in 1995 he was actually facing a life sentence because of the Californian 3 strikes law and this is when Amnesty International got involved and people around the world rallied towards his cause and as the news spread it spread the movement.

So Keith I wish to thank you again for setting aside the time for this call.

Keith - Thanks, it is wonderful to be wandering around this campus seeing everyone setting up their stalls at Veg Fest and to be in circle with you all.

A - How did you end up being at this particular campus today?

K - Well I have kind of been on tour since 1994 when I got my first arrest that became the 3 strikes case so it is not unusual for me to be touring around and I was speaking at the national animal conference in LA and I met the organizers of a booth that was here at Veg Fest so they invited me to come speak. So when you do put out love serendipity endlessly happens so you end up going all over the place and doing all sorts of things you would never expect - when you say yes.

A - Can you tell us how much travel you do and your typical month like?

K - It depends on the season and the year and so on, I sometimes spend September, October and November traveling using the schools and universities in North America and then I will go south for Dec/Jan to speak in Mexico or Indonesia, Philippines sometimes Europe and Africa. Fortunately I have been able to travel the world, sometimes I spend time in Nairobi or Kenya and everyone wants to know if I saw the beautiful Elephants and wildlife but it turns out I saw these amazing people and these amazing children that were so happy just because they had enough to eat and they got to participate in workshops that we put on, so this is what I see when I visit from the slums in Nairobi or the most hard core parts of Nigeria to places like Iceland where I was right after the revolution. So it has been really magical and then to see how the Food not Bombs people do their work based on three basic principals, the food is always vegan or vegetarian that there is no leaders or HQ that each group is autonomous and makes decisions using the consensus process to include not only everyone in the community that wants to help but to invite people that may need to food to participate in guiding the local chapter and finally that we are not a charity but we are dedicated to non violent direct action to change society so no one has to live in the streets or go hungry or face the ravages environmental distraction or war. So this sets us aside from for example the Salvation Army, which in America many people tend to compare us with but this is not really the case. You know that 45% of the food in developed countries gets discarded before it gets to the table, so there is all this food that we could share and we just like to show abundance by bringing out a huge amount of food on to the streets and showing the public that they can just take as much as they want.

A - So Keith you made a distinction that is interesting to me when you said We are not a charity, we are non violent direct action community. So what is the difference between a charity and Food not Bombs.

K - Well the distinction is the people that are eating with us are us. We are not separated from the people that come to eat and this is one major distinction and the other is we do not have the perspective that the poor will always be with us and its their fault its their poor and we above them. We are coming from the perspective that we can change society and that no one needs to go without. This is where the term I often use, a post capitalist society, comes in because there is no balance in a society where you always have to increase the process increase the use of resources, linear economic and political systems that much of the world exists in. And really the earth is a finite closed ecological system and it makes a lot of sense that we live in harmony with one another and with the earth and our own sense of spirit. This is what will pull us through over the coming generations, you can see for example with the water protectors up in North Dakota how its such a clash of cultures where people are trying to live in harmony with the environment and protect the water and at the same time these people are trying to increase their power and their profits and are waging a military assault against native people on their own land, they are really using a lot of violence against peaceful people.

A - The struggle you just mentioned is a great illustration of your vision. The quote that Raul mentioned at the beginning, I am curious about this, you said you still believe that the human spirit is at the point of global transformation. And I am curious as to here why now as opposed to some other time.

K - Well oddly enough I was a big proponent of the hundredth monkey theory which was something very popular in the anti nuclear movement in the 1970s and 1980s and that study where at some point when that 100th monkey started to wash its food in the river that all the others did the same even those who were not in the vicinity it was just a consciousness that traveled the world. I think we have this kind of happening now, part of this is being driven by technology such as the web and internet and so on, that technology which on one hand is very destructive for instance many slave in Congo have to mine the minerals to make it possible for these cell phones and there was a huge amount of energy being used to create the www. But it linked us up so this is an unusual and positive thing, although I have to say like the 100 monkey idea was popularized before the www. So there was a consciousness already happening between people when people saw us get arrested in 1988 people heard about it in newspapers and by word of mouth and they were so outraged they started their own Food not Bombs before there was even a publication about how to start a chapter, they just figured out how to do it. But now why I think we are at a situation that is so obvious to many people that the systems are not working, anywhere, the systems of power for example the electoral system in the USA where it appears a greater and greater farce the closer we get to the election or the climate change crisis where you have all these massive weather events around the world or the housing foreclosure crisis, so all these different things keep building to a higher consciousness that we really need to work together and we need to stop war, stop environmental destruction and so many people see this. One example of evidence of the transformation is when food not bombs started in the 80's most people just thought we were just Vegans and we were Hindis they had no idea they had never heard of people like ourselves sharing free food but now people understand, I am at the Veggie Fest now and it is full of hundreds of people are here and these things are going on all over the world. It is slow, slow work but with Food not Bombs we are trying to link the idea that peace must be for peace with other species and with the earth, we can not just be against war and eat meat we can not be against war and support coal mining.

A - It sounds like in your vision the kind of coming apart of the current order and the global capitalist system and so on that coming apart is happening hand in hand with the emergence of a new consciousness a new way of relating to each other and the other.

K - Yes I think that there is that happening where people all over the world there is a coming together of all these things. And so we are really excited about that, there is a combination of this being a world wide happening that is just amazing and this personal thing that is going on when you go out and share food on the streets, this to me is like a celebrating. I know in Santa Cruz is one of my home bases that and New Mexico and both places when I am at the meals is like a huge celebration all these people are out there enjoying the food seeing abundance and engaging in conversations about what is it we can do to change society and it is remarkable the energy. Many of the people are living in a sleeping bag in a doorway and just trying to get from point A to point B with out being harassed by the police and yet at the same time they to are joining in this vision of making the world a better place, it really is magical. So you have the personal that I know to be true of many Food for Bombs people, this is why they do it because it is just so amazing their own experience the first time they went out with the food and shared the meals and saw what abundance message really does. It gives a sense of hope, I think for a lot of social movements I noticed when I was young doing political organising we would have a big rally and it would be exciting and you may have great speakers some music there was a real nice connection with everyone but boy you add the abundance of free vegan food to that mix and its really inspiring.

A - Whats strikes me in listening to what you are saying is that this movement that is involving so many people in making changes in the world that you are really brining it down to the personal level that when someone shows up and is involved in this celebration of food and abundance that it is very personal and that that personal quality changes people - yes.

K- Yes it does, there was a book called recipes for disaster and the author called us a gateway to activism and the part that touches your heart so strongly to be in that environment that is transforms you and it becomes hard to turn back. Generally speaking it is such a positive experience and what I hear is that people are just changed. Back to the original of how I got invited to this vegies, when I first went to an animal rights conference I was not really connected to them, I was a grass roots activist, but they invited me to speak, I had been vegan all these years and handing out this vegan food trying to encourage people and influence using things like Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe and others writing about ending world hunger which all spoke about this being a plant based solution and also being in harmony with the world. I had experienced killing chickens when I was a child and had also been in turkey processing plant so I had seen what a cruel thing meat was. So I showed up at this event and all these people that I looked up to that I read about and seen on TV and I was really excited and these were there grandfathers of animals rights and vegan food and how come I am here and they said well we happen to walk past your table or I listened to Propaganda the Punk band and they talked about Food not Bombs and I was really blown away, you just never know what sort of influence a little project like this can have.

A - That is awesome how that happens. I have a question about something you just said, going back to the experience of individuals in the movement. I am around 10 years older than you and I am recalling the movements in the 1960s that was involved with, the anti nuclear moment against Vietnam war and civil rights and so on and one of the things that happened there is a lot of us were motivated by visions of a better world and the courage to act and do something about it but what many of us were not strong on was knowledge about ourselves. So a lot of unconscious stuff happens, women were often treated in a s second class way people got involved in there own ideas and pretty defensive and ego driven about their ideas people really were not working on themselves and that caused all kinds of mischief and I am wondering in the Food not Bombs movement is there a way beside working on the world that people are working on themselves.

K - Well that can happen in many different ways, a great many of the young people are anarchists and so what reject organised religion and things of that nature but with in that community of people they work on themselves in other ways. For instance they seek empowerment and being strong so they will have meetings and workshops against the isms and they will really work very hard on this and their philosophy since it is an idea of being of compassionate, in the food not bombs organisation at least, there is a real deep effort to try to be in alignment in a personal way. At the same time there is also there is quite a number of people that are from different spiritual backgrounds that may meditate, the DIY idea that grew out of Food not Bombs and other social movements has meant that people do seek bettering themselves of having some kind of balance between their inner world and this service world. And the service its self encourages that almost automatically because you are out there with these people, you end up engaging, the longer I do service in anyone place for example my 10 years in SFO I become like personal friends with people that living on the street and their demons and efforts to stop using drugs or their struggle to get housing so you end up with that kind of environment for food not bombs activists really gets you in touch with things. A lot of times the people eating with us will say god bless you and even if that makes the young person recoil the actual words of that you can not hear that kind of thing year after year without seeing that there is some kind of deep connection that you are having with these people, that it means so much to them. I think a lot of people that may reject main stream religion and they hear this from people living on the streets, we live in a very Christian culture what happens is you transcend that, a lot of the people really seek some kind of authentic. I hear this a lot, people like Food not Bombs because it is authentic you are out there with people doing stuff, I also hear this in other cultures that are not Christian but the feelings of the people are similar.

A - It sounds like what you are saying is the practice of service itself becomes a kind of practice of inner transformation regardless of what beliefs you may have.

K - Correct - I think people do build non-hierarchical no exploitive philosophy but there is this heart that people have as a result of doing this service. I think that it like a whole new direction. I was very young during the 1960;s but I still went to protests and was very inspired but Martin Luther King and things like that, I did not really know how to access that, I would see Hippies go by and be into. I am almost 60 so I have some connection to the Marxist Leninist struggles and Maoist struggles things like that and even in the late 70's I would often be encouraged to speak out for women rights and the social justice movement by my feminist colleagues.

A - Well thinking back on those good old days, I am curious if you can share a story from the early days when you were just getting started with Food not Bombs and what that was like.

K - When I started I was an art student at Boston University and I had figured out this really cool thing where I could work in the morning at this organic food store, the store eventually became Whole Foods but it was originally called Bread and Circus. So I was thinking this is not good that people are not buying all the produce and I do not want to throw it away so I end up with 2 or 3 cases of wilted lettuce and odd shape apples and things like that so I started taking them to the projects a few blocks away. Across the street were these vacant lots behind MIT and they had started to build these labs and one of them was Draper lab where they designed nuclear weapons. The people I was giving the food to were telling me how there were designing nuclear weapons over there and they talking about the building and what they were doing and it occurred to me that here were these people that complained about their heating or plumbing not working yet there is a bread new glass building across the street from them and they were desperate to get all my food that no one would buy and they were so grateful. So it just came to me that we should have food and not bombs and hence the name came about from that and also some graffiti I was doing out side a grocery store. So this is one aspect but another was I was going up to the anti nuclear protests in New Hampshire and I would go up there, we would get arrested, one of my friends Brian got arrested on serious assault charges so we decided that we would organise a defense committee and one of the things we wanted to was raise money so we would do bake sales and we make like $4 or $5 outside the student union and we were really like we are never going to put together a defense fund with this. I had this old van, which I was using to help people move, I called it smooth move, and these people were throwing out a poster which said wouldn't it be a beautiful day when the schools have all the money and the airforce have to hold a bake sale to buy a bomb. SO I took that idea and we went and got military uniforms and started to tell people were trying to buy a bomb so please buy our cookies. The final thing that becomes food not bombs, the street theatre part really became a hook for people to ask questions so then we decided to dress up as hobos. We had found the Bank of Boston was funding the build of nuclear power plants so we will go to the stock holders meeting and have a big pot of soup out of the groceries I was recovering, we want to the shelter and I explained what we were doing and people there thought this was great so the all these people turned up at lunch maybe 75 of them along with the business people and stock holders and our friends and were all eating outside of this stockholders meeting and it was so magical that we decided to quit our jobs and just do this. The actual homeless guys said there was not food for people in Boston at this time there were no soup kitchens happening anymore.

A - What I am struck with is the imagery of some of the parts of the story of the inequitable distribution of resources the military get the big shiny building and there are the people whose plumbing does not work etc. etc. So you are creating the space where everybody shares resources. Another thing that really strikes me is that sense of street theatre it seems so much of when you were starting was about street theatre.

K - We were super influenced by theatre, we had many friends that were very involved in the living theatre coming out of New York so the living theatre had this philosophy that was really amazing and part of it was that the public themselves walking by would be part of of the theatre, it would be not clear who the actors are and who are not the actors hence the name living theatre. Other groups that influenced us were Bread and Puppet who themselves had been influenced by living theatre who had been around since the 1950s. We really had a theatre background and as an artist I had this experience by looking at the art galleries encouraged by my art teacher so I went down to visit these galleries and I would see these yuppies looking at this art some of it not very good and they were talking about how the art was increasing in value and how that buying art was a really good investment and it made me cringe. Around that same time I hear Dr Helen Caldicott talk about Nuclear Arms and then I thought that is what I should do, I should have my art be public and about something that is meaningful. I was already trying to bring punk to America from England, so I was thinking to create a whole art culture and movement that speaks to the way I felt.

A - I notice that on the Food not Bombs website great art work and now I guess this must be your art work?

K - Yes it is.

A - I would encourage anyone listening to check it out. Before we open it up for questions from people on the call, you have been at this for 36 years and you have seen a lot. Can you share a time that was a particular personal challenge, what was your biggest personal challenge on this journey?

K - As you can probably imagine facing 25 years to life in prison was extremely stressful and prior to what went on that period of time was increase brutality so something that physical and emotional impact for quite some time was that I was captured by the police and they took me to police HQ they would rip my clothes of and lift by my arms and legs and rip my tendons and ligaments and yelling obscenities at me in the dark room, some people kicking me in the side and in the head and they would stuff me in a little cage that was hanging from the ceiling and I would be in there for 3 days. They eventually let me out with just my pants on to the cold rainy streets of San Francisco at 3am in the morning. This happened to me 3 times, I learned over time that I was being held in room 136 on the first floor and that this was an interrogation room for the San Francisco police intelligence unit yet they never ever asked me any questions they just were doing this to terrorize me. When I finally got the court case itself this was so stressful because they would bring riot police to the court room, it did not seem like there was a possibility of a fair trial I just had the sense that I could spend the rest of my life in jail. And of course I am thinking for the rest of my life I will be in chains in an orange jump suit for my life and people will forget about me and I will be in this horrible world forever.

A - This is hard to imagine that this is 1995 San Francisco, why were so extreme, why did you represent such a big threat to them.

K - This is interesting, in 1988 when we were first arrested on Aug 15th and then that Thanksgiving we get a number of volunteers came back from vacation and that a national guards person had seen them wearing a Food not Bombs button with the purple fist and carrot and they would say wow we just studied that group in counter terrorism school that is Americas most hard core terrorist group and then we were getting indications that Chevron, Bank of America and Lockheed Martin and others were concerned that the increased number of homeless people and the fact that food not bombs was starting up in different cities was a threat to their profits and people would demand that money was spent on food, education, health and things like that and diverted away from military spending. So we hear rumor of that, there were 14 reports that the national guard had produced saying we were the most hard core terrorist group in the US. In 2009 I was on tour and spoke at Princeton and I go back to my hotel and turn on CSPAN and there is a lecture about who is more dangerous the people that share vegan food in the streets or alQuaeda! In the end their conclusion was the people who share vegan meals are friendly, empowering and people are really attracted to what they are doing and as a result there could be economic impact where money could be diverted from military spending towards education, healthcare and other social services and therefore we would not have the financial means to defend the country form enemies and that made the vegan meals more threatening and more dangerous.

A - What a perverse and sincere compliment.

K - If anyone wants to dedicate some time toward finding the video it would be great, I know the exact time and date I watched it but I have called CSPAN to no avail, I just happened to tune in at the right time. I believe they were talking at the fletcher school of diplomacy and believe they were state department officials. I have been trying to find this tape so it would super helpful if anyone out there can help. Liz Tathers has been working on a Food not Bombs documentary for almost 15 years now and part of the issue for her not finishing this is she cannot get enough comment on the opponents of Food not Bombs.

A - We will send a reminder out following the call to see who can help. Over the years you have been doing this work, is there a particular personal lesson that has come to you, what keeps you going and focused and on target and optimistic.

K - I could go on and on for that but one of the things is sticking to the basics of your idea and doing it over and over again for a long long time. Just for the lesson of political organisation and global transformation that is just a practical thing I have learned. As far as me continuing to do this it is built Food not Bombs every aspect of it is so rewarding, the personal relationships and the celebration of doing the meal that is enough that makes you just want to come back and do that because you see people that have difficulty in getting good food or have not eaten in 4 days and blown away that they are going to get all the food they want and their are no limitations, these kind of things that keep you going for a long time. Just the challenge of doing something with no resources, part of the whole idea of this was we wanted a model that could be done by anybody no matter how poor or wealthy, it would be without limits, that challenge has been interesting. There are also some things that are deeper that help keep me going, one of them is that I grew up in the national parks, my grandfather was a park ranger and a naturalist and my father was a naturalist and then ultimately I was for a short while, in growing up in the wilderness with people that new about natural history, anthropology and so on I had these amazing transformational experiences and two of them which are at the core which keep me going the first was my father gave me Walden by Thoreau and I just learned to read so I read the short part first on why he refused to pay taxes for the Mexican war this really changed me, this took me to read everything that inspired or was inspired out of Walden. The second thing was when I was living in the Grand Canyon I was at Kindergarten through to 3rd grade and my grandfather was close friends with the elders at Old Oraibi which is one of the oldest settlements in North America and they would do a snake dance once a year and I would go to the dance and we were the only white family that would go and I would see this thing that had happened for thousands of years on this land. The energy of that was really amazing and it so effected me.

A - There are so many things that weave into your life that keep you going and certainly a lot for us to think about. At this point I will turn the call back to Rahul and we can open the lines up for questions.

R - Thank you both our fist caller is Pancho.

Pancho - first of all thank you so much brother Keith for all the inspiration, I want to touch 3 points the first is gratitude second is revolutionary non violence and third when you have been touching on Therou. As someone that directly benefitted from your revolutionary ripples of love by being fed these vegan meals many times I thank you, I know that many many folks have been nourished deeply by your efforts. Revolutionary non violence, how brutal the torture of the FBI was and continued to be, if you ask people like Erika Hugin the founder of the Black Panther movement or even just elder place panthers they also were considered a high level threat because of their social programs and they say well we doing this to have clinics and health and food and now it is still the same. And it seems like nowadays this is the most revolutionary thing you can do and your resilience speaks a lot of what you were seeing so thanks for underscoring the importance of persistence. In your book the Anarchists Cook Book which I encourage everyone to read, you say there on the part of revolutionary non violence, our persistence and dedication to non violence attracted public support, our volunteers would not give up, knowing that if we did future efforts to silence Food not Bombs groups in other cities were more likely, we just have to persistent in our service. When you were mentioning Therou, there was another person who was highly influenced by Therou and that was Gandhi and he said the very right to lead is only afford to us if we fulfill our duty of citizens of the world, nationalism is not the highest concept the highest concept is a world community. Again you are creating that part of world community with disobeying with great love moment by moment and I really wanted to thank you and maybe if you could touch right now with this very hot issue with our brothers and sisters at the Dakota standing rock and how can we all be in our little way contributing emotionally, spiritually or physically towards these efforts. And again I want to thank you.

K - thanks so much that is so beautiful, its funny someone reads something I wrote a long time ago and I go OMG I had forgotten I wrote that. That just inspired me, I just received communications from Olympia Washington Food not Bombs and they are being told they have to stop sharing food and they have been sharing for like 20 years and the current crew has been active for 10 years so not giving up is so important and I really here that from these guys, even though they are being threatened with arrest for trespassing this weekend and for sharing free food in public they are going to go forward. And at the same time one of our first trucks is leaving from New Mexico to go Standing Rock and we have a wood stove a load of wood and Army tent and cooking equipment and you may know Stephen Dunifer and he and I are working on shipping a 300W FM radio station over there which we should get done this weekend. I helped arrange a standing rock vigil in Santa Cruz and that was really powerful and then I attended another vigil in the Taos plaza in New Mexico they held a prayer meeting yesterday and sent of the care van which includes our equipment, we also raised money to buy canteens so people do not use petro chemicals to have water at standing rock since we are trying to stop the oil, so we have water is life canteens and there was a huge vigil at the federal building in San Francisco and so if we can not get to standing rock we need to stand at where ever we are and make a statement that we want this to end and also to transform ourselves. Things like growing your own food which I know you are great promoter of, in the Food not Bombs free school we are experimenting with alternative ways of generating electricity and perma culture and all kinds of ways living in harmony with the earth we go mushroom picking up in the mountains and dry them and wild herb collection. All these things, if we are all moving slowly in this direction it is going to have a big impact. The other thing I think about, the peace aspect, the prayer, being water protectors at standing rock it is such a beautiful thing, we have learned from wounded knee, I was the director of Leonard Peltier defence committee for 3 years and this is not mean that some of our defenders and protectors will not end up facing life in prison but the thing is to face life in prison knowing in your heart and the people know that you are non violent is so powerful and I think that if the authorise try to pull a Leonard Peltier at standing rock their going to be having a real issue, I think the energy created would damage their ability to continue to exploit the world. I am so inspired by what is happening there, I wish I could be there myself but I feel that I am there in someway as Food not Bombs is there so it is good to be making that place a little better. Its one thing for the mainstream media to ignore this but I think that the world is getting to know about it because people are sharing, this could be the last pipeline.

Pancho - Thanks so much for making the point that we can all plug in and how everyone can contribute. A couple of days ago when all the water protectors and then the police were beating up people and macing teenagers and women and all this is happening and some peoples whole task has been praying and sending positive thoughts and positive energy and as soon as they are in these kind of climates of violence coming from the police, they arrive in all their riot gear and then this heard of buffalo arrive from no where and people were so moved. Everyone just has to pay reverence to these beings that are just called along with this positive thinking. Once again brother I love you very much and thank you for a service space friends who enable us to hold this space for such truly inspirational conversations.

R - Our next question is from Len in San Mateo. Recently I went in to our market dumpster looking for coffee grounds for our garden and I was amazed to see lots of slightly blemished fruits and vegetables so I filled a big box and took it home. Please say more about better ways to stop this waste.

K - Well you know one of the things I have been doing is corresponding with the government in France which is so amazing where no food can be thrown away, the food either has to be made in to meals to feed people, provided to animals to eat or composted. And this is a countrywide law in France. So I have been trying to get the person who first promoted the idea of this law to tour the US, there is no reason why this could not happen first as city laws then state laws a little like the plastic bag thing. Then if all the states did it it would become like a national thing and it is very interesting that this law came about in France because we for instance in new Mexico we have Albertson Smith and Super Save and the Food CoOp Taos Market and Syds, the last 3 will give us everything they throw out and it is all organic and its beautiful but the large grocery stores have a policy that they have a compactor to destroy all the food so the protest workers at those 3 stores are heart broken because they actually come from poor families that could certainly use the food. So that encouraged me to start an anti food compactor movement which I tried to do on Oct 1st but it did not really take of, I thought well start a partition go to the local municipality and have them make it illegal to trash food that kind of thing and the reason I choose Oct 1st was Clinton had signed the good samaritan act of 1996, so there is the urban myth that you can not share food or you will sued but it turns out there is a law that protects you if you donate food to feed the homeless there is a legal team at UC Berkley that did a study and found at there has never been a store that has been sued for donating food that then made somebody ill - this is an urban myth, it has never happened and there is a cool website that if you email me at I can email it to you which looks as various of these studies. So there has been a number of studies in the US that show that at least 45% of food that is grown here is thrown away before it reaches the table, this is a high amount of resources, imagine all the work it takes, I know even just doing my own garden of 1 acre is such a huge amount of work that it is insane, I am always so impressed by all these organic farms that produce so much they can actually sell it, its impressive, so it just seems heartbreaking to throw it away and not use it or to even make it into compost but considering millions are going hungry it is terrible, there are 3 to 4 million homeless in America and they sure could do with it. This is definitely something we can work on as a society and stop all this waste.

Wendy - I am so impressed on your work to focus on abundance and not scarcity so I am wondering Keith are you also reaching people on the different end of the political spectrum that have different views on politics than you and are you able to connect with them and are they getting your message.

K - Absolutely I would say we are compassionate anarchists at least the 8 of us that started this are so one day I get a call when I am in Florida with Food not Bombs there and they say there is a protest downtown protesting the law against feeding the homeless outside. SO we rush down there and there is this fancy tent that says libertarian party of Florida now they are giving out hotdogs and coke but they totally agreed why is all this money going to war and can we not do something different in our community, so they have a different political perspective and they were very patriotic and not really like us but we resonated on a number of different issues and find this is frequently the case. Republicans like the idea, DIY is oddly a big thing for them it kind of goes with the little government pull yourself u by your bootstraps kind of philosophy. But the persistence of this and the connection of this really touches them and it really touches them, its odd that the most liberal cities in the US are the ones that have arrested us so for instance 2 of the most liberal cities in Florida are Orlando and Fort Lauderdale and they wages the biggest war against us and these are like the core of the progressive governments in Florida and you would think the same of San Francisco and Santa Cruz and Santa Monica but they are not sympathetic to us. So it is an interesting thing, average people in America can see the logic of all this. There are intersections many times with people of all political backgrounds, we had a fundamentalist Christian minister in Huston come out and risk arrest with us when the city was threatening us because she was so angry with them and it was her involvement that turned the tide and the city government even though had passed a law stopping us, they ignored it, there was a left-right alliance that was so strong that they did not dare go after us there.

R - It is so interesting that the political situation on how you are received seems so counter intuitive yet the local people always seem to have a resonance at the heart level.

K - Absolutely you can not come up to Food not Bombs and see all the people there and not be touched, I have heard many times oh we were just going down the street and we saw this group of people and we new before we saw the banner of flyers that it was Food not Bombs because of the energy, because of this equal-ness, it is not the we are helping you it is we all in this together energy and it goes out in to the community before people even get to the table and I think it resonates all kinds of people.

R - I have a question, getting back to theme of community I am curious about if you have any stories how the fellowship and space around the food that you have shared with people on the street has helped them get of the street. I am referring to people who are homeless whose community which is a safety net that would prevent them from ending up on the street is somehow not there.

K - I have a number of them, maybe the starkest there was a couple, and the guy was an ex stockbroker and he got involved in Cocaine so he could be more effective until he just went off the deep end and ended up on the streets and he lived with his partner on the streets for a number of years and ate at Food not Bombs and we became like a tent city protest again the homeless laws and they started coming and cooking with us and coming to our meetings and having input and they ended up instead of feeling horrible about themselves, they became clean and sober they started doing their own actions they created their own homeless rights group and before long they got jobs and they rented an apartment then before long they bought a house and then they ended up buying a house on the Big Island and ended up retiring out there with a pension. There are other similar stories, I am close to these guys so it really meant a lot to me.

R - Wow that is remarkable and Cocaine is no easy drug to get off. As the host it is my privilege to ask one final question which we give to all of our guests and that is how can we at the larger service space community support your work.

K - Oh wow, well right now there are a few things but as we are volunteer group I start there, if you have time to volunteer at your local Food not Bombs group or to start one that would be huge. If you do not have time for that but you have resources, if you know how to connect us with sources of food that is being discarded or donations of cooking equipment or rice or you could donate on line, right now I am trying to raise a bit of money to send this radio to standing rock, recently we have been doing relief work in Indonesia on cyclone relief so you can go on line and donate at But really it is about getting out on the street with us and helping us on the street, volunteers are critical, the more volunteers the more the word gets out. Other things like if you have access to free printing, particular if it is recyclable paper that really helps us, access to solar cells.

R - What strikes me most from listening to you speak is that there is so little gap between when you feel come across when you come across a good idea and your enthusiastic whole hearted putting it in to practice and this a truly rare thing, and the world would be a greater place if we all practiced it. So thank you so much for being here today.

About Awakin Calls

Awakin Call is a weekly global series of deep conversations with inspiring changemakers. It is an all-volunteer offering and is completely free, without any ads or solicitation. Read more ...


Subscribe To Newsletter

To stay updated about guest announcements, fresh content, and other inspiring tidbits, subscribe below and we'll send you a weekly email.


Archived Conversations

Or search by date or through tags like:

Contact Us

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a note.


  • img
  • img