Foodzone: Connor serves meals, not politics

"It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber."

Somewhere in that clever bumper sticker, twisted up amid the cupcakes and delicious anti-militarization sentiment, is the approximate creed of Food Not Bombs.

Strictly speaking, this odd blend of political action committee and community non-profit organization was started in Cambridge, Massachusetts, some 20 years ago, but the Charlottesville chapter started in the wake of September 11 with Jennifer Connor and a few of her buddies.

"Food is a right, not a privilege," says the 28-year-old activist, succinctly conveying the group's mission. Connor is quick to distance it from any particular political platform, though– in fact, she recently attended both party conventions to voice her disgust– because its activities are guided solely by the ideological trinity of opposition to excessive military bloat, reduction of food waste, and community building.

To those bipartisan and universal ends, members of Food not Bombs meet every Sunday for lunch in Tonsler Park on Cherry Avenue. Lunch is served gratis at 1pm, after which groceries are distributed to the needy. Highly motivated souls can go one better– the group is always looking for volunteers to help put the weekly gatherings together.

"We work on a very low budget," Connor says proudly. "It's amazing what can come together when people just decide to do something."

Indeed it is. Food Not Bombs has grown from a single protest in Massachusetts into a national grassroots movement with chapters in every conceivable corner of your Rand McNally, some of which serve meals daily. The Charlottesville division has mushroomed as well, growing from five or six founding members to...

Well, nobody really knows for sure. On any given Sunday, the crowd might range from 20 to 40, but that figure can range quite a bit in either direction.

"Our smallest meal has been for one person in the park," says Connor, "and our largest was for a thousand."

The latter, a catering job of sorts for the National Conference on Organized Resistance, is all the more impressive when you consider that it was compiled largely from food that would otherwise have ended up rotting in a landfill.

'We're throwing four billion tons of food away each year in this country," says fellow Food Not Bombs member Brian Buckley. "Let's harvest that."

Bon appetit, Charlottesville.

Jennifer Connor


Jennifer Connor