Food Not Bombs returns to Lexington
By Dave Cooper
Lexington Food Not Bombs is back, feeding the public delicious and healthy free food every Wednesday at 5:30 in front of the downtown public library in Phoenix Park.
Organizer Melody Millage, 22, who works at Magee’s Bakery, got the idea to start a Lexington Food Not Bombs group after talking with Tates Creek High grad John O’Shea over coffee at Common Grounds, and they have now been serving meals in Lexington for several months.
Most of the food served is donated from the Lexington Farmer’s Market, along with random donations: At a recent dinner a man rode up on a classic red Schwinn bicycle, opened his daypack and withdrew a gigantic five pound bag of uncooked elbow macaroni to donate.
Millage typically surveys her food donations for the week, and then tries to make meals out of what she has. For example, she recently typed “mangoes, onions, apples and apple cider vinegar” into Google and found a delicious recipe. Another day’s offerings included breaded eggplant, an amazing pesto pasta, beans and rice and veggies, green beans, and chocolate pudding.
Food Not Bombs is vegetarian and vegan-based, and the folks who line up every Wednesday at 5:30 are polite and appreciative of the good home-cooked food: “I’m tired of fat and sugar. I just want some healthy food,” says one. Another says: “I’d love to try some of that eggplant! …Thank you, thank you … and I want some of them too… ”
One man returns with an empty plate and points to a tray half-filled with breaded eggplant. “Can I have the rest of them?” he asks, half- jokingly. Millage laughs, “No, we gotta let everyone have some.”
The line moves pretty quickly. “You want some beans and rice? Want some eggplant? It’s gonna be really good!”
“You want everything?” Millage asks one patron. “Yes, Ma’am!” he replies. “Y’all be blessed, all right?” Down the serving line, O’Shea and Nash Whaley pour water from three mason jars into plastic cups. “Is that moonshine?” One man asks, again half-jokingly. “No, just water,” replies O’Shea.
O’Shea explained how he got radicalized: “It started with my political beliefs in high school. I got arrested three years ago for using my cell phone in high school …they called it ‘Disorderly Conduct’ … and I thought, if this is what a legitimate system looks like, I’d hate to see an illegitimate system.” Looking to find like-minded people in Lexington, O’Shea tried to start a collective, but said that it “never had any members besides me.” Finally he met Millage through the local folk and punk scene.
Whaley, who has volunteered with Food Not Bombs in his native Louisville, calls himself a Libertarian Socialist, and is a freshman Russian major at UK. He joined the Lexington Food Not Bombs effort after seeing a flier in Common Grounds.
Food Not Bombs is a radical organization. Operating in over a thousand cities around the world, it believes in the radical concept that more money should be spent on feeding people and less on the military.
“Food is a right, not a privilege” is their anti-war cry. “We are taking nonviolent direct action to create a world free from domination, coercion and violence. With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?”
The combination of the economic downturn and Millage’s delicious food seems to be generating larger crowds in Phoenix Park. Meanwhile, Park Plaza residents have been growing more vocal in expressing their concerns about the number of people who spend much of their day sitting and sleeping in Phoenix Park.
Park Plaza resident Frances Barker wrote in a recent [Sept 28] letter to the Herald-Leader: “When the well-meaning churches come to hand out food to the needy, why can they not take them over to the courthouse lawn? … when they need to use the restroom, they use the bushes … I know that the homeless deserve consideration and care, but so do the residents of the downtown area.”
Millage is optimistic that local Lexington police will leave Food Not Bombs to feed local people in peace. So far, there have been no problems. “The police don’t bother us because we clean up our mess when we leave,” says Millage.
But this past June in Orlando, the Disneyfied city arrested 21 Food Not Bombs members for feeding people in public parks. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called them “food terrorists.”
Millage welcomes more Lexington volunteers to come and serve food at Phoenix Park. Currently she is spending about $20 per week out of her own pocket to purchase miscellaneous food items, cups, plates and utensils. She also seeks volunteers to help transport food to the park. “Eating is a right, not a privilege,” she says.
If you’d like to donate food or get involved with Lexington Food Not Bombs, come by Phoenix Park on Wednesday at 5:30 or email firstname.lastname@example.org