[Hpn] Food Not Bombs -- Rocking, rolling and water guns

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Tue, 03 Jul 2001 14:37:46 -0700


Orange County Weekly
June 29 - July 5, 2001
Weekly Arts: 

Food Not Bombs 
Rocking, rolling and water guns

by Chris Ziegler

Every Sunday, members of Santa Ana Food Not Bombs (FNB) serve up monster
pots of veggie soup and fruit salad (with bagels cheerfully available on the
side) to anyone living on the streets and needing something to eat. But
right now, theyıre feeding one another grass. And wrestling. And pulling one
anothersı socks off. And tearing barefoot around the Santa Ana Public
Library after one another on this muggy Sunday afternoon, yelling things
like, "Cımon, you hippie anarchist! Whereıs your molotov now?"

This is more than help for the needy. This is dinner and a show, brought to
the hungry and the homeless by a rambunctious bunch of county kids who put
the active back in activist.

"Oh, thereıve been times itıs much worse than this," says Kym Phan, the
groupıs de facto publicist, as little knots of people sip their soup and
watch the entertainment. "Water guns, shaving cream, water balloons‹itıs a
lot of fun. And thatıs what keeps us together‹itıs not just work."

But then Food Not Bombs isnıt just another activist organization, and Santa
Anaıs chapter isnıt just another little piece of Food Not Bombs. Born in the
1980s out of the anti-nuclear movement, FNB has in many ways become
inextricably tangled with the more politically minded wing of independent
music: itıs the Digger feedings of the 1960s gone do-it-yourself punk, and
in the inhospitable desert that is Orange County youth culture, itıs a
stubborn oasis of selflessness.

"These kids are a good cause," says Eric, a resident at the Catholic Worker
house where FNB prepares its meals. "You seldom meet kids this age who are
into things like donating food, who wonıt just give you the cold shoulder."

Santa Anaıs chapter started about three years ago, but local
activist/musicians like Erik Rez and Resist and Existıs Jae Lee had laid
important groundwork before that. "I donıt know how Eric and the rest did
it," says Phan. "Heıs somebody Iıve admired since I met him." But now itıs
totally in the hands of Phan, Marty Achterhof and the dozen or so other FNB

Theyıre responsible for all the administrative decisions: besides finding
the food, theyıve got to prepare and distribute it, spread the word among
the local homeless population, keep the organizationıs energy and vitality
high (hence the water guns and shaving cream) and make sure no one hungry
goes unfed. Today, theyıve taken a short break from cooking to sign one
anothersı high school yearbooks. So what if most of Santa Ana FNB might not
be quite old enough to vote? Theyıve still carved out a place for themselves
in local politics and activism, likely with a fork and a spoon.

"Itıs a collective, and itıs run by kids," says Phan. "Itıs not like an
agency or anything. And I think itıs really cool because even though it
sounds really cheesy, itıs really influential. I brought my brothers, who
are 11 and 12, and then they used to come a lot‹like every single weekend.
We do live in white-town suburbia. When I was that young, if I had had
somebody to take me somewhere so I could see that poverty exists . . . Itıs
just about exposure."

Part of that exposure comes through the local music scene. Youıll spot these
kids at Kooıs Art Café or Chain Reaction (though less for the traditional
crusty-thrash shows than for the pop stylings of Rilo Kiley or the Get Up
Kids), and youıll spot bands they like playing FNB benefits every few
months: itıs a chance to connect progressive-minded people as well as to
make punk something more than music.

"Itıs a way of doing something positive with your music," says Achterhof,
whoıs responsible for procuring most of the food FNB serves each week, "and
itıs a means to get the word out."

Achterhof spends Sunday afternoon picking up donations from local markets,
sometimes supplementing stocks with salvaged day-old breads or produce.
"Donıt worry," he says. "I wouldnıt cook anything I wouldnıt eat. If
anything, I get compliments." FNB serves vegan or vegetarian meals and never
buys food. Besides being more cost-effective, it makes a point about
American wastefulness that theyıre able to feed dozens each week on food
that otherwise would have been thrown out. And itıs an alternative to the
chicken-wing-and-a-prayer fare offered by other organizations, he says.

"Thereıs only so many peanut-butter sandwiches, baloney sandwiches, and
beans and wieners you can take," says Mike, a homeless man whoıs something
of a regular at FNB feedings. "At least weıre eating healthy."

And then thereıs the wrestling matches for dessert, says a kid named Stu,
panting and covered with grass stains. "Itıs free food and free
entertainment," he explains. "They love it."

Food Not Bombs meets at the Catholic Worker, 316 Cypress Ave., Santa Ana,
(714) 558-7478; www.koos.org/fnb/fnb. Every Sun., 1 p.m.; FNB feeds in front
of the Santa Ana Public Library, 26 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana. Every
Sun., 4 p.m. 

**In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is
distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior
interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only.**
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