January 27, 2011

What I Do, Part 2 - Food Not Bombs

Read my first post on what I do (an overview) here. Over the next few months, I intend to write more about the specifics of some of my current projects and interests, as well as more generally about what it means to be a Scanner.

I've already mentioned a few of the ways I try to live my beliefs... including eating locally, growing my own food, and dumpster diving. Some of these changes mostly just affect me, others have a larger impact. I guess I'm always looking for ways in which my own small changes and actions can have a larger ripple effect .

One project I'm involved in that I hope falls into that category is Food Not Bombs. Food Not Bombs is an international organization with autonomous regional chapters like the Binghamton chapter which collect food that would have otherwise gone to waste (through arrangements with natural food stores, grocery stores, food pantries/food recovery programs, and yes, occasionally dumpster diving) and use it to prepare meals which are then shared with the community. 

Like other programs that offer community meals, one of our intentions is to help those most in need. But some of our other goals differ - we strive to reduce food waste, build community and bring people together (by allowing anyone to participate in preparing, eating, and cleaning up after meals), and also to serve food that is both tasty and nutritious.

So how have we done with these goals?
  • We have absolutely reduced food waste by using food that would have been wasted to prepare meals. All leftovers are given away or taken home by volunteers and all food scraps are either fed to our chickens or composted. 
  • There is a strong sense of community at meals. I love coming and eating and chatting with different people each week. One of my favorite parts of each week is listening to the person who brings and plays a different musical instrument each week. This was not something we arranged, but something that grew spontaneously out of this community.
  • We serve vegetarian food. Most of the meal consists of well-seasoned fresh vegetables (we do incorporate canned and frozen veggies as needed, but that is usually less of the meal), grains, and beans. We provide exposure to a type of food that many regulars on the community meal circuit do not get anywhere else and try to get people to realize that vegetables are both healthy and delicious! We also share our recipes and cooking tips with anyone who is interested and many people try our recipes at home. Volunteers also learn a lot about cooking and safely utilizing food that others might throw away.

While Food Not Bombs has no formal leadership structure and is a non-hierarchical organization, it seems common in many chapters for a few individuals to take on the majority of the responsibility. While we have many wonderful volunteers, I think Dan and I have fallen into that position and gotten a bit stuck there. There are pros and cons to this, but at this point my goal for working with Food Not Bombs is to make myself obsolete. I'd like to continue to be involved because I enjoy it, but know that the chapter would be able to continue with or without me. Towards that end, I intend to continue trying to help develop leadership in others and examine whether there are ways that I am unconsciously clinging to power and control (and try to let go of them).

I hope this will make the organization stronger, grow my skill set a bit, and free up some of my time and energy to work on other projects. Because there are always other projects.

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