Next to Harrisburg’s Civil War Museum, where brick paths etched with the names of Pennsylvanian civil war soldiers remind us of the tragedies of war, an annual festival gathered in Reservoir Park for delicious vegan food, sustainability workshops, and music featuring local artists to remind us of peace, love, and community.
The Love Reforms Cooperative, (LRC) a non-profit organization, arranged their 3rd annual “Food Bombing on the Lawn” event. The idea is to have a space that offers free vegetarian and vegan food to anyone that may be hungry and spread word of community efforts for living more sustainably.
Niles, the Harrisburg organizer, was busy refreshing food and entertaining the crowd in-between acts as DJ.
The all-day event in Reservoir park featured many sustainable workshops; dyeing with natural plants, eating invasive plants, and “seedbombing,” a workshop on how to grow more plants around Harrisburg.
Leslie, a local yoga instructor and co-organizer, often volunteers with LRC in their three community gardens located around Harrisburg. The cooperative gives out the vegetable abundance for free or for very low costs, “I mean like 5 tomatoes for a dollar” at a weekly farmer’s market on Derry St.
“Harrisburg is a food desert,” Niles replied when asked about the importance of community gardens in Harrisburg. “There’s no grocery store within the city limit that’s got food that’s affordable, whole, and healthy- vegetables and fruits, etc.”
On Mondays, LRC supplies free food for the downtown community and the pandemic never stopped them. One organizer, who wishes to remain unnamed, says that “People rely on spaces they know they can get food. A pandemic doesn’t mean they will stop being hungry.”
In 2018, Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness (CACH) counted 685 homeless living in the Harrisburg/Dauphin county region.
The concept comes from a global initiative, “Food not Bombs” (FNB) started in 1980 when co-founder Keith McHenry’s friend, Brian Feigenbaum, a Boston University law student, was arrested for protesting at a nuclear power site. On the FNB website, McHenry says he raised funds for Feigenbaum’s legal defense by holding a bake sale that wasn’t very lucrative when he came across a sign saying “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a B 1 bomber.” McHenry and his pals dressed in military attire next to that painted sign not selling much more baked goods but began to open the consciousness on how we can see food and funds.
The event morphed into more street theatre and began by protesting outside of banks that supported nuclear testing. By dressing up as depression-era hobos and recruiting from homeless shelters the night before, a soup kitchen was organized outside the working plaza where more than 50 homeless people showed up for food. The group realized the effectiveness of gathering among food and friends for social justice and peace so they quit their jobs.
Now over 1,000 communities globally such as Indonesia, Ukraine, Philippines, and Australia, participate in “Food not Bombs.” Branches are able to gather for their communities needs and are encouraged to follow FNB’s 3 principals;
- Food is always vegetarian/vegan and free to everyone without restriction; rich, poor, stoned, sober.
- No formal leaders or headquarters. Each group is autonomous.
- Dedicated to nonviolent, direct action, and works for nonviolent social change.
Although the autumn breeze, fragrant food, live music, and children at crafts tables appear as a simple community gathering, it’s a protest.
Since 1988 FNB feeding the community has lead to hundreds of arrests in various cities; Orlando, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Tampa, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, and more for feeding a large community. FNB even states that some of its volunteers have been arrested under accusations of trespassing, arson, and false accusations of domestic terrorism.
Niles emphasized that today’s event wasn’t about fighting or protesting against something, just gathering together to share knowledge, music, and food. His roots with FNB, however, did begin with protest. Around 10 years ago, Niles says he joined a protest against a governor whose motto was ‘Drill Baby Drill’ he joined a group called ‘No Fracking Way’ and through there met those involved with FNB.
You can find Love Reforms Cooperative weekly farmer’s market at 1429 Derry St. Wed. 3-7