Situated between two busy streets in Rogers Park is a house. When entering through the fence’s gate, one can’t help but notice the commotion; children heard in the background, a garden out front and every free inch of space covered by objects. This home is a source of community. Providing shelter to people looking to live in an environment focused on teamwork and cooperation, this home is called the Koinonia House.
Koinonia House (6925 N Ashland Blvd) is occupied by members of a community organization called Food Not Bombs, and its residents say the organization brings more purpose to the workings of their home. Food Not Bombs is a voluntary group of people who focus on providing free vegetarian and vegan meals to the members of the community. Founded in 1980 in Cambridge, Mass., by a group of anti-nuclear activists, Food Not Bombs is dedicated to nonviolence. The group believes if it can shift the focus from war to poverty and homelessness, then our society can only benefit from the notion that food is a right rather than a privilege.
Finding its approach successful, Food Not Bombs has become an active part of more than 1,000 cities around the world.
Although Food Not Bombs has been around for more than 30 years, the group in Rogers Park has only been active since 2006. Each chapter that forms is autonomous and invites all members to make decisions for the organization.
“Food Not Bombs brings community every week; people stumble upon us and we share food — a common struggle and joy. We are not about charity, we are about solidarity within our community,” said Anthony Betori, a graduate of Loyola who majored in English.
Betori first joined the group when he was a sophomore at Loyola after a fellow student took him to a meeting. Interested in the goals of sustainability and the collaborative efforts within the chapter, Betori has helped out ever since. Another volunteer, DJ Morrissey, has been a part of Food Not Bombs for one year and said, “It’s nice to just do a nice thing.”
Junior psychology major, Harley Tays, 20, learned about Food Not Bombs this year through Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity at Loyola.
“They gave us a list to choose where we would want to volunteer and I chose Food Not Bombs, because I like to give back to the community and I see Food Not Bombs really makes a difference,” she said.
So how does Food Not Bombs operate?
The process begins around noon. Volunteers make heaps of food from donated items they pick up from a Whole Foods in Lakeview the night before. After successfully packaging the meals, they hand them out near the Morse Red Line stop until 3 p.m., when they move to the basement of the United Church of Rogers Park, handing out the rest of the meals.
These meals usually consist of mostly soups and salads, but the type of meals depends on what kind of food is donated or picked up at Whole Foods that week. In addition, Food Not Bombs focuses on preparing and providing only vegetarian meals, and sometimes vegan meals.
“We want to share safe food,” said Nell Seggerson, 22, a volunteer and 2013 Loyola graduate. “Meat can go bad very quickly, this way we don’t have to worry about that and we can help educate the public on healthier living.”
Food Not Bombs volunteers say that the best part of their experience is getting to meet different people from all around the Rogers Park neighborhood.
“There is such a variety of people that I would not have had the chance to talk to if I wasn’t a part of Food Not Bombs. … We get to really learn about them,” Seggerson said.
Volunteers smiled and laughed while cleaning up after handing out food to the Rogers Park community. When Betori was asked to sum up his experience with Food Not Bombs in one word, he responded, “Collaborative? … I don’t know the word, but there is a feeling that is great and makes me so grateful.”
Students interested in Food Not Bombs are encouraged to come to Koinoina House on a Sunday to observe Food Not Bombs in action.