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McHenry Feeds Social Justice

By Eric Mistry

After participating in political activism for over 30 years, Keith McHenry had a variety of incredible experiences and saw the power of a simple idea. He, along with a few friends, founded Food Not Bombs, a movement dedicated to serving food to those who need it and highlighting some inconsistencies in governmental policy. It is now active in over 1000 cities worldwide and spawned offshoot groups with housing and peace goals. McHenry visited Grinnell this past Monday evening to share his stories in a lecture followed by a question and answer session.

Keith McHnery speaks on the power that food security can have on the peace processes of the world.

Throughout his talk, McHenry shared humorous anecdotes about his experiences protesting. From dressing up as an army general selling baked goods in order to buy an airplane, to getting arrested for giving food to the hungry, to traveling around the world to spread the message of Food Not Bombs, McHenry has gone through a variety of endeavors to promote his cause.

Food Not Bombs started when McHenry and his friends, “became concerned when Reagan became elected that he would divert funding from education, healthcare, and social services to the military and that this would cause a crisis.”

When one of the group was arrested while protesting, the group of friends began selling baked goods to raise legal funds. In addition to selling these baked goods, they also helped someone move. It was during this move that they found a poster that resonated with their mindset.

“The poster read, ‘Wouldn’t it be a beautiful day if the schools had all the money they needed and the air force had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?’ So we went out dressed as generals and sold our baked goods in Harvard Square and the Boston Commons. It seemed to work really well and was a great way to spread our message that country was moving in the wrong direction,” McHenry explained.

The group would go on to hold other protests and provide food to the homeless and anyone else who wanted it. When they got in legal trouble for giving away food, the resulting media exposure helped push their message worldwide. McHenry and his friends were astounded by how the movement grew. Food Not Bombs has provided food around the world, from weekly meals worldwide, to being among the first to respond to Hurricane Katrina, to helping organize the kitchens of the Occupy Movements.

McHenry remarked that he was impressed with the Occupy Movement protests and was glad to see how similar in structure it was to Food Not Bombs. Like Food Not Bombs, Occupy has no formal leaders and comes to decision by group consensus. In addition, McHenry was glad to see that Occupy, like Food Not Bombs, is dedicated to nonviolent social change.

In an interview, McHenry explained what students at Grinnell and everywhere can learn from his experiences.

“Eight college students in their early twenties can think of an idea, and as long as they keep it focused and simple, it can become something that go around the world that thousands of people can participate in. It just shows how much hope there is, that a college student with a few friends and an idea can make something that thirty years later could have an impact on people, changing their lives around the world. It doesn’t take money or being a special person, it takes having this good intention and sticking with it, then it can go worldwide.”

And that, as is commonly said, is food for thought.

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    Gene ElderJul 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    “It is always the really sick people that try to take over the world. The rest of us are content to just give a couple of cocktail parties.” –Gene Elder
    ” I will be glad when the military has to hold a bake sale in order the buy a bomb.” –Gene Elder

    Join the MUD underground.
    Artists hell bent on taking over the universe.
    The MUD underground originated in 1976 on the San Antonio River by a group of artists gathered in secret in the abandoned Borglum Studio. (The historic studio of Gutzon Borglum where Gutzon created the model for Mount Rushmore.) The MUD Underground is now a national movement. And with the things the way they are, I suggest you join the MUD Underground too.
    The MUD Underground: Where the demarcation lines between politics, religion, espionage, high finance, nudity, and ART begin to dissolve.