Food Not Bombs (FNB) serves food every Saturday in Roeding Park. FNB shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in more than 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment. With more than a billion people going hungry each day, how can we spend another dollar on war?

Bottleneck Blues: Food Not Bombs Serving Unhappy Meals at Roeding Park?

By Kelly Borkert

It could go unnoticed if you aren’t eating or serving lunch just north of Storyland in Roeding Park Saturdays at 1 p.m. as Food Not Bombs has for nearly 16 years.

The people who make the trip by foot, bicycle, bus or car know what awaits them if they get there before the last cup is served—a free lunch of vegan chili beans, brown rice, green and/or fruit salads and delicious soup. Bread and pastry donations courtesy of La Boulangerie and Whole Foods give people a chance to take something home for later, with tea and water to wash it all down.

They also know they better get there soon enough, these days. The Food Not Bombs serving at Roeding Park fluctuates according to available donations, including volunteer resources, and it seems the economy is taking a toll there as well. We provide our own rice and beans to ensure the basic ingredients of a vegan meal much of which comprises the old “50-50” or half frijoles and half rice. Would you like soup with that?

Perhaps a third of those in line take extra food for people they know who cannot be there. All is dependent on how much we have available, and if we can get it safely, into the right hands.

Sometimes a regular participant is too sick to attend for weeks, or months. When we know who, and where they are, there have been delivery people who do their best to bring something to those who need it. Lynn Graham and Tom Machado always set the best example here, taking care of unseen people with equally invisible safety nets. They both deserve a rousing chorus of “Jolly Good FNB’ers!” They are supreme leaders by example, so pay attention to those people behind the curtain!

Also, watch out for Kathleen Solano and her ace sidekicks. They have a habit of delivering food to roadside customers on main streets when the park serving sees an excess. Not a frequent problem, but a great solution. Thank you, Kathleen, and her ace sidekicks!

What has been a problem is having enough transportation for food and supplies to and from the park on Saturdays.

We have too few volunteers with trucks or vans who can take the food containers, tables, serving supplies, extra produce donations, clothes, sleeping bags, blankets, etc., out from our base of operations, the kitchen at Wesley United Methodist Church (at Barstow and Millbrook avenues), about 10 miles to the park (at Olive Avenue and Highway 99), and from the park, to be cleaned and subsequently stored.

We once had about six trucks in our caravan, some alternating their service days based on personal schedules, but the years have moved many of them far away, leaving things much different than they were. This transportation bottleneck limits what we can take out to our regular meal, threatening to turn it into a much smaller event than it has been, with more people showing up after the food is gone, a truly unhappy meal we don’t want to provide.

As smaller vehicles are being squeezed into play, the size of the pots and drink containers becomes a problem. Interim solutions being proposed include dropping substantial portions of the meal. On the best days, clothes and produce that should be taken to the park may be left behind because other items are more important.

If you and/or someone you know has the time and means of delivery available to assist the meal serving Saturdays from noon until roughly 2:30 p.m., we are trying to set up a rotating calendar of transportation vehicles and after-serving dishwasher teams for every Saturday through the end of this year. Given enough rotating volunteers, we might be able to do more than ever, with the normal burden spread more evenly.

The Saturday Food Not Bombs group has been unable to attend many functions held concurrently with the park food serving. If we had access to additional servers and trucks, we could accommodate dual events, or perhaps serve at two locations instead of one. It has happened before with little difficulty. Now it is nearly impossible.

There are possibilities worth exploring if people are willing to donate their time, their vehicle and a little effort for Food Not Bombs. A lot more could be accomplished, and it should be. It’s not a position that pays well (try putting gratitude in your gas tank) or, in fact, at all, but this is where you can make a huge difference—whether these meals and supplies can be distributed as they have been, and as they should be, when they are needed most.

If you have vehicle assistance you would like to provide, please contact Food Not Bombs at drdug@pacbell.net. Thank you one and all for your support!

*****

Kelly Borkert has been concerned about hunger since the day he was born. Contact him at kellyborkert@hotmail.com.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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