On Saturday afternoon, Haylee Becker, a 19-year-old volunteer with Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs who does most of the talking to the media about the local group, sat in a vegan ice cream shop on the other side of the Everglades and talked about confronting despair.
Becker was leading one of four afternoon "workshops" that were part of a daylong gathering of Florida Food Not Bombs groups, involving activists from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Sarasota, and more. The gathering marked the restarting of the Fort Myers group, which plans to share free vegan and vegetarian food every week at Centennial Park, just under the toll bridge that connects the town to its foreclosure-gutted bedroom community, Cape Coral.
The "despair" that Becker noted comes from trying to change the basic systems that exist in the world: people stuck in poverty while others, much of the present group included, have an abundance of food (and the ability to pay five dollars for a delicious vegan buffalo-tempe pita pocket). Other workshops included a presentation on how to grow your own amaranth seedlings as a versatile, protein-rich, year-round crop (courtesy of Ben at the one-acre community garden Heartland Gardens
On hand throughout the day was Food Not Bombs founder Keith McHenry, a bearded man in his 50s who started the first free food-sharing in Harvard Square in the early 1980s and recently finished a 17-day jail stint in Orlando for trying to serve food in that city's Lake Eola Park in June. He spoke on a comfortable, friendly basis with many of the local crowd and recounted stories of his efforts and arrests both recent and past.
The events took place at Cool Hand Luc's
, while a few people finished up the cooking at the home of Madison Dickmon, a Fort Myers resident who has taken charge of getting the new group off the ground. (Because Food Not Bombs operates based on the initiative of its members and involves no pay and a lot of hard work, chapters do diminish or stop altogether from time to time.)
After a 6 p.m. food sharing in the park, where about 30 people gathered to eat and talk by the glistening bay, the group returned to the ice-cream shop to chat and wait for the musical entertainment: an evening punk show by Miami bands including Gorilla Pussy and a political puppet show from Fort Lauderdale-area activists.
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