Back when Keith McHenry cofounded Food Not Bombs with some friends in Massachusetts, the group was a small one—spreading political messages about peace and feeding the poor. The effort has since gone worldwide, and it’s celebrating its 38th anniversary here in Santa Cruz starting Wednesday, May 23. McHenry, who moved here a few years ago, says the four-day celebration will include lots of music and art. The main event will be Soupstock 2018, from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, by the downtown Post Office.
You call it Food Not Bombs, but come on. Was anyone really ever serving bombs to people?
KEITH MCHENRY: The name came about because I was a produce worker at Bread and Circus [in Cambridge], which is now a Whole Foods, and it was one of the earliest natural food stores that had organic produce. A lot of it was left on the shelves every day. Any produce market has that issue, and so I started taking it to the housing projects a few blocks away. And across the street was this brand new building where it turned out they were designing nuclear weapons. I looked into it and they were designing the guidance system for intercontinental nuclear missiles, and the place was called Draper Laboratory. That was one of the things that inspired me to think of the name Food Not Bombs.
Food Not Bombs is all vegetarian, mostly vegan. Was it that way from the beginning?
From the very beginning. We didn’t know the term vegan in 1980. We were all mostly vegan, although some of us would eat yogurt or cheese. The food was almost always vegan, but we called it vegetarian.
Do you have a favorite bakery?
Beckmann’s is great for food here, but over the 38 years, Panera has been a favorite. The person that started Panera had a bakery in Harvard Square, and it was one of the bakeries I got food at. Food Not Bombs has been able to get food ever since all over the country.
The 38th Anniversary Celebration of Food Not Bombs runs from Wednesday, May 23 through Saturday, May 26, with events at the Museum of Art and History, the Resource Center for Nonviolence and the streets of downtown Santa Cruz. Visit santacruz.foodnotbombs.net for more information.