By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
The food for the day's sharing was spread on the kitchen table. A big pot of potatoes, filled to the brim with water waiting to boil, leaned precariously on one of the working electric burners. Friends milled around the kitchen, trimming kale and broccolini or lining up garlic bread in trays for the oven. Dogs, wearing flea collars, coursed between the kitchen and the living room, where a couple of people sat on love seats in the dark, listening to punk music from a set of computer speakers. A flimsy, hollow bedroom door still bore the holes from where one of the police officers had supposedly kicked it and gotten his boot stuck. The walls, all of them, were covered in multicolored writing and graffiti. A feeble air conditioner sputtered through a hole in some plywood, and below it, a salvaged espresso maker belched steam and Bustelo. The sink dripped through a disconnected P-trap into a bucket, which provided reusable, slightly dirty "graywater" for the garden — and for flushing the toilet, if it worked, which it didn't on this particular day.
As cooking progressed, Johnson and the others discussed a dilemma. They had gotten a donation from a local school: four big trays of meat. Chicken parm, meatballs, roasted turkey. Should they serve it? It ran contrary to McHenry's ground rules, which dictate staying vegetarian, for ethical reasons as well as food safety. (He suggests redonating meat products to other outlets.) They decided to serve the meat dishes, which turned out to be the most popular of the evening.
Fort Lauderdale's volunteers try not to purchase anything except staples like oil and sugar, which they buy using money they pool from odd jobs. Much of the food comes from late-night Dumpster-diving trips, especially when they can get someone with a car to drive to Winn-Dixie or Fresh Market stores out west, which have the best bounties. Publix stores are off-limits, because they use trash compactors.
McHenry doesn't approve of Dumpster-diving, instead relying on donations from local farms or businesses, because he says it's unreliable and reflects negatively on Food Not Bombs. But some local farms are wary of giving business to a group of rabble-rousing youth, and Dumpster-diving is... well, more fun. Plus, there are principles to be upheld: Food in the trash compactor or Dumpster is food that's being forcefully kept from someone who needs it.
The front door opened, and Becker wheeled her bicycle into the room, silhouetted by the bright sun. She carried a plastic bag that contained cooking oil and cigarettes.
Becker has progressed from typical girlhood in the malls of western Broward (boring, no friends) to homelessness last year ("I was done with the whole living-with-family thing") into a sustained, conscious rebellion that cements her position as a de facto leader of the Food Not Bombs group (exciting, friends). Her antiauthoritarian stance may or may not have anything to do with the fact that her father is a Homestead police officer ("No comment," she says with a grin). She first heard about the Friday sharings in high school, before she graduated a year early. "Hey, let's go feed homeless people in the park," said one of her closest friends.
Food Not Bombs was already up and running in Fort Lauderdale by then. The local chapter had been founded in 2006 by Brian Sprinkle and Marc Silverstein, two friends who met at an anti-globalization protest in 2005. From there, they joined the Bolivarian Youth Communist Group run by an authoritarian man who called himself "the Chairman." Finding more of a taste for the consensus-based anarchy of Food Not Bombs, they went Dumpster-diving for some bread and put it in Silverstein's car. "We drove around giving it to homeless people," says Sprinkle. "They were happy... but then again, they were probably drunk."
Sprinkle, now 27, and Silverstein, now 24, soon established the weekly sharings in Stranahan Park, where they would come to mentor new kids who showed up full of piss and vinegar but without a clue of where to find flour or beans. Meanwhile, the businesses around Stranahan Park were growing wary. "We tried to go to the bathroom in the Subway across the street, but they put the rack of chips in front of the bathroom door," says Gonzalo Vizcardo, a Food Not Bombs volunteer from that time.
Last year, the core members decided to rent a house. "For a while, we had wanted to have a collective house," says Sprinkle. "We brought it up at meetings. Some of us had jobs, and the ones who didn't would work at the house and garden or clean. We thought that would let us spend more time on our activism."
They found the SWAMP Collective house for $650 a month. Everything went fine for that first month: Hitchcock had some money from cleaning and laying tile, and Johnson had a stipend from his liberal-arts scholarship at Broward College. They pooled their money for the security deposit, and Sprinkle's girlfriend, who had a job, paid the first month's rent.
But living up to ideals hasn't been easy. Sprinkle's girlfriend had to pay for the second month's rent too. Becker had started drinking heavily and lost her job at a mom-and-pop toy store in Weston. Sprinkle and his girlfriend retreated to their room, annoyed by the younger members' constant partying. At the end of December, the couple moved out. Sprinkle and Silverstein scaled back their involvement and passed the leadership duties on to Becker and Johnson.
Eat Do-Gooder should be REQUIRED to take 5 or 6 "homeless" people home with him so they can sleep, poop, barf and stink up their own lawn. Fair is fair after all.
LOL Bukker = word police! ;)
feeding the hungry is good, but teaching them to feed themselves would be better.
Al they are doing is enabling poor to survive. This is the low hanging fruit of the poor.
its kinda like a welfare program, when you give someone something you feel good, but haven't really helped or changed the situation.
so for the FNB people, they feel good that they feed some folks for a few days... but then what happens when they stop or move on? how did you change the life of the poor?
how doing something to change the situation, like some skills training?
Um...FNB is associated with a lot of training and social programs. In Sacramento they are affiliated with Fishes and Loaves.
So research before you speak.
Like Nanook said, are you going to volunteer to teach them skills WorkingGuy?
Probably not, but if you do then you might be on to something.
"The reason for the arrests? For years, residents near the park had complained that after the meals, homeless people disbursed into their neighborhood"Christ, do you people have any journalistic standards at all? I swear, you must be of the generation that believes that if MS Word doesn't flag it, it isn't wrong. "disbursed" means "Given funds, especially previously -allocated ones." The word you're looking for is "Dispersed", which means "spread out." God, the state of web-based journalism is miserable.
Oh my god a typo!!!!! This is ridiculous!!!! That makes this article completely false and misleading!!!!
You're a disbursed douchebag Bukkler!
You're correct -- fixed. Ten judges with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals used "disbursed" as well (http://goo.gl/X9FRv), thus the mistake. Also, chill out.
I wish we had more young people like those in FNB. To many are cought up in the miteralistic rat race. The more the disparaty betwwen rich and poor widens the more people will be put on the street. And who will help, not the goverment!
How about Linux training? what's linux you ask? A computer language a lot of phones and computers use. if you have those skills you can get a job.
smart people can still find a job. low skilled people, are competing with china for jobs.. Education is the answer.
Everyone has an opportunity to get smarter and earn good incomes.
its up to you, how you choose to live your life...
the minute enough people want to contribute to the point that full-time volunteers can afford to train homeless people on computers i'm sure we can get started.
are you intending on helping make that happen? no? ohhhh, so you're just one of a million people who criticize without actually contributing to help the problem in any way whatsoever. how surprising.
want to feed the homeless in Ft Laud? Do it at Holiday park, not Stranahan park.
The homeless are NOT harmless. They are aggressive, and swarm around cars at the light, looking for money.
this in turn deters business, and tourist from coming to downtown, taking away commerce, and lowering those that do earn money, incomes.
This is just another enabler of the homeless. want to help, teach them a skill so they can earn their own food.
Sorry, no sympathy for food not bombs.
haters gotta hate.
as usual, you're perfectly willing to ignore the central conceit of fnb - no one has to go hungry in america. we produce more than enough for everyone, and your apathy to the waste amounts to denying food to the needy.