Sunday, August 12, 2007

Food Not Bombs

Panic in the Park
Hartford's Food Not Bombs causes a stir, but is unshaken
By Adam Bulger
Hartford Advocate, June 28, 2007

Hartford's chapter of Food Not Bombs has weathered a storm over the last month. First, a drop in volunteers forced them to temporarily downgrade their twice weekly sessions of serving free vegetarian meals in Bushnell Park (they're starting up again in July, and volunteers are encouraged to e-mail

And secondly, they inadvertently caused a hilarious panic in the park. On Sunday, June 11, one of FNB's leftover cardboard boxes put the city of Hartford in a tailspin, a turn of events the FNB crew found extremely puzzling.

"That sinister-looking cardboard box with a cupcake drawn on it and decorated with a bedazzler?" FNB volunteer Sean Murphy said, ruefully.

It was a cardboard box labelled "Not Bombs." Unless it was a terrorist group with a sci-fi level understanding of nanotechnology and with a Magritte-like approach to labelling, it was pretty clearly not a threat. Still, the Hartford police mobilized in force and created one of the funniest overreactions to a nonthreatening object since, well, I have to go back to the Boston Mooninite Box on this one.

The reaction was especially odd as it wasn't the first time such a box would have appeared in the park after an FNB session.

"We respect every place we go to and don't leave messes around," Dave Rozza said. "But what happens is sometimes we get down to the park and people come late and we have food left over, so we leave it in a box and people can take it. Usually it's gone quick."

Hartford police did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite the recent troubles, Hartford's FNB have kept rolling along. In the 13 years since the group started in Hartford, they haven't missed a Sunday. In addition, the Hartford group's scope has extended beyond Hartford.

"We were the first Food Not Bombs to respond to New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, and one of the first emergency responders in general," Rozza said.

The dozens of people who showed up at their most recent Bushnell Park event seemed pretty happy to see them. They were surprisingly effusive about the quality of the vegetarian food served by FNB, with one woman calling it delicious, and another man praising its "nutrify-ing" nature. That was a surprise considering the cook's somewhat self effacing assessment of his talents.

"I make delicious slop. Actually, slop is a bad description. I make delicious vegetable slurry," Murphy said.

The only complaint had nothing to do with the food. Bobby Houston, a man who said he was homeless by choice, complained over the political content. The lack of it.

"We don't always talk about anarchist politics at FNB. We try to keep it apolitical and not preachy at all," FNB volunteer Ken Tong said. Like others in the group, Tong is a committed anarchist, but said the primary purpose of the FNB is to simply feed people.

"All you have to do is voice concern," Houston said.

Rozza was surprised at the request for more of a message along with the food.

"That's never happened before," Rozza laughed.