BY JOSH VAN OSTRAND
Young adults gathered outside city hall in Kitchener on Oct. 3, bringing folding tables with them. In a flurry of activity, they set up containers of silverware, a canteen of water and several hot plates. The group moved quickly as large steaming pots of vegetarian and vegan soups were carried up to the table alongside a slow cooker filled with rice.
A dozen people waited patiently while the group rushed to finish preparing. Some people wore torn jackets and stained jeans, others had on business attire and winter jackets. All manner of people were welcomed as the group fished chalkboard signs out of plastic storage containers and wrote down the day’s menu: rice, lentil soup, curry potato soup and apple crumble.
The last esthetic touch was set up carefully, a colourful sign that read “Food Not Bombs.”
Food Not Bombs is a global collective of activists all trying to make sure that everyone has enough to eat. Every Saturday they work to help people in the city who are struggling to make ends meet and to break down barriers between those who have enough and those who do not.
“We here at Food Not Bombs get food from local supermarkets that’s not bad but they can’t sell anymore and we cook it up, distribute it, and feed the community free of charge,” said Dominic Aquilina, the organizer for the Kitchener chapter. During the event he rushed around making sure that everything was ready, it was served properly and that people were enjoying the food.
It’s clear how he talks to people that he enjoys what he does. “The key thing that makes this fun for all of us is we’re just students, or recently were students, and we’re just a bunch of people hanging out and making some food.”
Food Not Bombs was created in protest of the escalating federal budget going to the military while social programs like soup kitchens were having their budgets slashed.
The local chapter functions on a tight budget. What little money the group has to work with comes from the Waterloo Public Interest Group and small donations from the public but it’s not always enough.
“There have been a lot of times over the years where we’re just paying for things like oats and rice out of pocket. Everyone who’s doing it is doing it out of the goodness of their heart. There’s no compensation beyond the food itself.”
Everyone clearly understood just how important programs like this are for people who are homeless but also for people who are struggling financially.
“A lot of the homeless people have nowhere to cook a meal,” said Birgit Lingenberg, a sociable woman who brought her daughter and small dog with her to enjoy the food. “Poverty is increasing greatly and for poor people like myself, this is a hot meal that is also nutritious and so delicious.” Lingenberg motioned to another man, currently homeless, who attended with her. “It’s important for people like John. He’s homeless, wandering around town looking for somewhere to eat. He’s hungry. I said follow me, we’ll go to Food not Bombs. We need these places desperately. We need help for poor people.”
Everything the group does comes from the work of volunteers like Grant Vlasic, a graduate of the robotic and automation program at Conestoga and Food Not Bombs volunteer. “There’s a lot of homelessness and a lot of hungry people in Kitchener that you don’t really notice because they spend a lot of their time browsing around and this is something the community really needs,” said Vlasic. “The best thing (students could do) is to start a chapter of Food Not Bombs in Cambridge because Cambridge has the same problems that Kitchener has.”