Food Is a Right, Not a Privilege

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 30, 2011

CONTACT:

Keith McHenry 575-770-3377

menu@foodnotbombs.net

www.foodnotbombs.net/food_is_a_right.html

Kathy Mitro 386-795-9643

kathymitro@yahoo.com

FOOD IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE

Sharing food with the hungry is an unregulated act of kindness.

End all efforts to stop people from feeding the hungry.

Rescind all laws restricting compassion.

“I wholeheartedly support the action on April 1, 2012 to protest

laws against sharing food!” Dr. Cornel West –  author and professor  at Princeton University

“THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO GIVE OUT FOOD, THERE IS ONLY GIVING OUT

ALL THE FOOD YOU CAN”

- Kathy Mitro who posted a petition on line after being threatened  with arrest for sharing food in Daytona Beach. Florida in January 2012

We are proposing that people all over the world consider sharing  free meals in celebration our right to food and participate in our  campaign for an end to laws restricting acts of compassion.

Celebrate our right to feed the hungry with music, theater, and the  sharing of food.

SUNDAY, APRIL 1, 2012

It has been distressing to receive so many reports in the past few  weeks of people being threatened with arrest or cities adopting new  laws limiting people’s right to share free food with the public.

People in Belarus, England, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, South  Carolina, and Florida have been contacting the Food Not Bombs global coordination office about having been threatened with arrest for sharing food. Others report that their local governments are considering laws to limit acts of compassion. Food Not Bombs volunteers in Minsk have been arrested for sharing meals an police  raided a benefit concert on March 24, 2012 charging 15 volunteers with sentenced to administrative arrests.

This new wave of threats is happening as half of all Americans are  struggling to survive. The Department of Agriculture’s February  report shows that 46,286,294 people relied on food stamps in  November of 2011. People have been arriving at Food Not Bombs meals claiming they had not eaten in four days because other food programs had exhausted their resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1 in 7 people or 925 million people world wide went hungry in 2010. We are announcing a global campaign to recognize that sharing food with the hungry is an unregulated activity of compassion and should not be interfered with by the authorities.

Our movement started when the “Diggers” occupied St George’s Hill in Surrey, England on April 1, 1649 in a protest for the right of landless people to feed themselves. We are announcing our global campaign for the right of all people to share food with the hungry without regulation on the anniversary of the first act of the peaceful resistance by the “Diggers” of St George’s Hill.

The public is encouraged to share meals with their community on Sunday, April 1, 2012  to celebrate our right to share food and end all efforts to restrict acts of compassion. Please email our office so we can post your event on our website.

FOOD IS A RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE – End all efforts to stop people from feeding the hungry

http://www.foodnotbombs.net/food_is_a_right.html

FOOD IS A RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE – End all efforts to stop people from feeding the hungry on blog.foodnotbombs.net

http://blog.foodnotbombs.net/food-is-a-right-not-a-privilege-end-all-efforts-to-stop-people-from-feeding-the-hungry/

ENDORSED BY

•    Barbara Ehrenreich – author of Nickel and Dimed

•    Dr. Cornel West – author and professor Princeton University

•    Noam Chomsky – author and professor M.I.T.

•    Michael Parenti – author and lecturer

•    Raj Patel – author of Stuffed and Starved

•    Eric Holt-Giménez – Food First/Institute for Food and

Development Policy

•    Bill McKibben – author Deep Economy

•    David Barsamian – founder and director of Alternative Radio

•    David Rovics – Musician, USA

•    Kevin Devine – Musician, Brooklyn, NY

•    Dorinda Moreno – Fuerza Mundial Collaborative

•    Rev. Brian Burch – President, St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society

•    Francisca James Hernández, Ph.D. – Southwest Institute for Research on Women

•    Kathy Kelly – Co-coordinator, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

•    Max Ventura – Musician, Activist, Mom, USA

•    Michele Burke – St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

•    Rabbi. Auri V. Ish – Musician, Nederland Colorado

•    Christina Persaud – Halifax Nova Scotia

•    Can Baskent – Practical Anarchy, New York City

•    Planting Justice – Oakland, CA

•    KT Terry – Founder Homeless Not Hopeless Poets For Change

•    Marian Wagner – The North Country Coalition for Justice and Peace, East Ryegate, Vermont

•    Tessza Udvarhelyi – The City is for All, Budapest, Hungary

•    Tristram Stuart – organized “Feeding the 5000″in London’s Trafalgar Square UK

•    Kathy Mitro – Daytona Beach, Florida USA

•    Agustina Vidal – Myrtle Beach Food Not Bombs

•    Birmingham Food Not Bombs – Birmingham, UK

•    Keith McHenry – Co-founder of the Food Not Bombs Movement

•    Lauren Melodia – Founder & Co-organizer Milk Not Jails USA

•    Tom Ferguson – Author, Atlanta, Georgia USA

•    Comida, no bombas – Monterrey, Mexico

•    Tampa Food Not Bombs – Tampa, Florida USA

•    Grand Rapids Food Not Bombs – Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

•    The Civil Liberties Defense Center – Eugene, Oregon, USA

•    Durango Food Not Bombs – Durango, Colorado, USA

•    Houston Food Not Bombs – Houston, Texas, USA

•    Budapest Food Not Bombs – Budapest, Hungary

•    Randall Amster – Chair of the Master’s Program in Humanities at Prescott College, and also serves as the Executive Director of  the Peace & Justice Studies Association. USA

•    Ellen Murphy – Bellingham, WA, USA

•    Cincinnati Food Not Bombs – Cincinnati, OH, USA

•    Miakoda (jyll taylor) – founder & director of Fierce Allies

•    Washington D.C. Food Not Bombs – Washington D.C. USA

•    Christy Prahl, New Communities Program Director – Humboldt  Park, Chicago, IL

We added our name to the list as well.

Feeding The Homeless BANNED In Major Cities All Over America

http://world.hawaiinewsdaily.com/2012/03/feeding-the-homeless-banned-in-major-cities-all-over-america/

Philadelphia decides to stop outdoor feeding of homeless

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6X6HDnXufQk&fb_source=message%E2%80%AAPhiladelphi%E2%80%ACa

Parker retools, delays homeless feeding plan

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Parker-retools-delays-homeless-feeding-plan-3422252.php

Food not Bombs activists to stand trial after riot police`s raid on charity concert in Minsk

http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2012/03/25/ic_articles_259_177292

Freedom Day, Arbitrary Detentions and Travel Bans – Belarus Politics  Digest

http://belarusdigest.com/story/freedom-day-arbitrary-detentions-and-travel-bans-belarus-politics-digest-8553

“Serving the Homeless is Not a Crime” magnets

Serving the homeless is not a crime magnetWe are making these magnets available. They are 4″ x 6″ printed in black on white reflective vinyl, so you can make a statement on your tailgate or trunk day or night. Make a donation of at least $10 by either check or the Paypal Donate button and mention that you want one of these and we will mail you one or hand you one the next time we see you. If you prefer sticker form, just request that and we will send a sticker instead.

Many thanks to Brian Simpson for his donation of the design.

Special Report Available for Printing

Please feel free to download, print and distribute this special edition of our Report. Time is of the essence, as they say. We need your prayers. We need financial support. We have $5 in the checking account and a lot of work to do.

Here is the link to the newsletter: Special Report

The Donate Button is to the right or you can mail a check to:

The King’s Jubilee
27 N. Front St.
Souderton, PA  18964-1148

The Donate Button is on the Right

I did the math, and over the last 23 years, The King’s Jubilee has served or provided about half a million meals to homeless people or to needy children or seniors on fixed incomes. We have distributed tons of clothing and blankets to families in need. We have moved dozens of houses full of furniture from those who needed to get rid of it to those who needed it but could not afford it. We have redistributed dozens of used computers to people who needed them to learn basic skills or school children in the inner city. We have purchased vehicles for other ministries who serve in Jesus’ Name, even once acquiring an electric golf cart to help a tutor get around Richard Allen Homes project with all her books and teaching tools.

We have done all this and more on a frayed shoestring, with no building other than my home and no salaried staff. I say all this to say we are tired and we need your help to do greater things in the next generation. Please dig deep and give generously.

Tuesdays in Philadelphia – over

We have stopped serving on Tuesdays in Philadelphia. The Word In Action International Ministries has been able to recruit more volunteers. Also, the city is closing the Ridge Ave. Shelter, in front of which they serve, as their second site. Then there is my health. I have just been running ragged, trying to keep the business going, serving two nights on the street, laying the groundwork for the future of this ministry, while doing battle with whatever demons are whispering in the mayor’s ear.

I’m tired and broke and my customers are tired of waiting three weeks or more for their icons.

Great and Holy Friday

It is not lost on us that the ban on outdoor serving of hot, nutritious meals to homeless and other poor people in Philadelphia goes into effect on April 13, Great and Holy Friday. The whole community was given very little warning.  The proposals came out during Lent. There is at least a one month gap where there is no legal provision for outdoor serving and no adequate indoor venues for serving of food. If  all were to comply, what does the city expect this to look like? Let’s see. Hundreds of hungry, desperate people loose on the streets, with nothing but their dignity and freedom left to lose. Dumpster diving is sure to go up. Panhandling is sure to go up. Mugging is likely to go up. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the restaurants and convenience stores in center city weren’t mobbed and stripped of some of their food.

How does this improve the health or safety of anybody? My recommendation to anybody would be to stay away from Philadelphia until the city grows a heart and stops this violation of human rights and curtailment religious freedom. It is not going to be a particularly pretty or safe place.

The goal of the city’s plan is to bring all organizations firmly under the city’s control. When that happens, it effectively makes them all city programs. They all become secular. They will be viewed by the poor and homeless as part of the monolith and no longer to be trusted. Their approach betrays a basic misunderstanding, on the part of the city, of the psyche of homeless people. Homeless people are the people who did not respond well to institutions or bureaucracy. The one universal that can be stated about the homeless is that they don’t fit in. It should come as no surprise to the city, yet somehow it did, that those of us who have been serving them for years or decades are a bit like them. I have been telling mayors for decades that the city can have all sorts of great ideas, but there is never going to be one good idea. It will take thousands of good ideas to help the thousands of homeless and poor people we serve. We need multiple approaches.

More important than any approach or any idea is relationship. And all of the city agencies and bureaucracies and shelters and programs are all designed to nip those in the bud.  All of the orientations warn against personal relationships and teach you to keep a professional distance. This is their fatal flaw. Let the professionals do what they do, but what people need more than that is family and community. Among the myriad of volunteers serving on the street, people can find someone with whom they can connect. This relationship can continue regardless of their housing status. People need alternatives, friends, dignity, freedom, family and love.

 “This is just another example that shows that our country is being taken over by control freaks. There seems to be this idea out there that it is the job of the government to take care of everyone and that nobody else should even try.
“But do we really want to have a nation where you have to get the permission of the government before you do good to your fellow man?
“It isn’t as if the government has “rescued” these homeless people. Homeless shelters all over the nation are turning people away each night because they have no more room. There are many homeless people that are lucky just to make it through each night alive during the winter.”   - Hawaii News Daily, March 21, 2012

Pray for us. We intend to continue serving the poor. We also intend to continue to fight these anti-christian mayoral decrees.

 

God DOES Believe in Atheists

Twice in the last week, at the same stoplight, I have found myself behind the same car with a bumper sticker that says, “God does not believe in atheists.” I’m sure whoever stuck it there did it to be funny and somehow thought provoking. Who knows? Maybe, this is what passes for evangelism these days in evangelical circles. I find it offensive, a slander against God; and I have evidence that it is not true.

About twenty years ago, it was a Wednesday. We used to serve on Wednesday nights in Phila. I led a Bible study in Graterford Prison in the afternoon, Bethann would make the soup and we would go down in Joannie B’s van. Different people would make sandwiches. There were four of us guys who would go down. It was like clockwork. We arrived at JFK Plaza at 7pm. This Wednesday, everything fell apart. Bethann had to go somewhere with the girls or fill in at work, so could not make soup. The usual sandwich makers all called me, one by one, with car trouble, or schedule or money trouble; no sandwiches. Les calls. He forgot that he and Joan and the girls had a thing that night, so no Les, no van. The other two guys call. They can’t come. It felt a little like the opening of the book of Job.

So, like Job, I had a conversation with God. Also like Job, I probably got a little more specific than one is supposed to get in prayer. While I was making a loaf of sandwiches and grabbing a gallon of iced tea and stuffing them into the trunk of my Honda Helix Scooter (Bethann had the car), I was praying that God would send someone who had never been out to serve before with something really special for the guys. Don’t ask me why I prayed that. I don’t know why my brain works the way it does. “Behold I am fearfully and wonderfully made!”

So I head down to the city on my red scooter. I arrive at the Love Park to a line of about 75 men waitng for dinner. I have a gallon of iced tea and a loaf of bologna and cheese sandwiches in my trunk. As I am pulling up, an Electra 225 or LeSabre pulls up and parks. A lawyer gets out. I know he’s a lawyer by the way he walks. (I come from long lines of lawyers, horse-thieves, and circuit-riding preachers on both sides; and since the last two professions have fallen into disuse.) His suit and his car were pretty good tells as well. He opened the trunk of his car and started to take out cases of cold cans of soda, then hot casseroles and shrimp rolls. I asked him if he did this regularly. He said he had never done this before. He was there because he had a client who was supposed to do community service and he just wanted to make sure he did it.

I said, “Praise God! You are an answer to prayer!”

He said, “I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God.”

I said, “It’s obvious to me that He believes in you.”

We served side by side until everyone was fed and the food was gone. It was a real treat. Once again I told the man, “I thank God for you. You are an answer to prayer.”

Once again he protested, “I told you, I told you, I don’t believe in God!”

I said, “That’s OK. He still believes in you. Thank you.”

I know that the last thing I said to that man is probably offensive to many who may read this. I just thank God I am not God who will separate the sheep from the goats. When I read what Jesus said about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, the one thing that comes through to me every time is that everyone is surprised. Some of the best Christians I have known, I have later found out called themselves atheists. Some of the most miserable, bigoted, hateful people I have known are firmly convinced they are on the inside track for Glory. Some days, that’s me.

“For peace of the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.”

We are called as a royal priesthood, not to judge the world, but to intercede for it. Let us not fall into the evangelical trap of sorting everyone into categories of lost and saved; into prospects and allies. People are people. Everone is hurting. None of us has all of the answers. Let’s be honest. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. I am Orthodox because we let the mystery be.

Mount Moriah Cemetery Update

The McGraws, John Haggerty and I went to the Friends of Mount Moriah cemetery meeting in February. It was very encouraging. The city’s managing director’s chief of staff was there and talked about the progress of disentangling the ownership issue. The plan is that they want to turn it over to a public/private board with a clean slate, but no funding. This will take about a year. At that time, the way will be clear to start fundraising for restoration. It looks like we would be able to do all of the ministry that we really want to do there, as an independent organization, but part of the coalition, without the headaches of actually owning the whole thing and managing the working cemetery part. There is another meeting this Saturday, March 24. I am hoping to be there.  It seems like a really fine group of people with whom to work. The spring clean up day is March 31. Please come out and help us. It is a mammoth task, but it is God honoring. At least one Orthodox Church has their cemetery in there, and many graves of servicemen from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars are there.

To accomplish the ministry on this site, we will need a facility adjacent or fairly close to the cemetery. We are beginning to look for something appropriate. We would like to establish a vocational training center and a community development corporation. The CDC would work on acquiring and rehabbing properties in the area to address blight and restore housing stock. This would provide on the job training for the men in the off season, when there is less work restoring native plantings and resetting stones at the cemetery. It would serve to help generate some income to cover continuing and operating expenses going forward.

This is huge! We need a whole bunch more people involved. We need a whole pile of money. We need people who are smarter at this kind of thing than I am. We need a younger generation of movers and shakers who want to make Philadelphia a true city of brotherly love in Jesus’ Name.

“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” – Luke 10:2


Why Can’t We All Get Along?

The way Mayor Nutter is phrasing things, it is like he has “invited” us to come inside and that it is all about concern for the health and dignity of the homeless population. When asked about enforcement, he says, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

The devil is in the details. He started using the Health Dept. to reduce the number of groups serving the homeless by adding to the complexity and expense of food preparation. The Health Dept. draft regulation called for all food to be prepared in a commercial grade kitchen that they inspect, prepared with at least one person whom they have trained on site then and when serving; a menu and a schedule submitted a year in advance. You would have to submit this and wait for permission, then serve only in the corraled, patroled space at City Hall, if they say yes, until they say no, a year from now, when they are going to shut everything down. That came with the mayoral decree through the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. None of this was voted on by City Council.

They say this is because they are concerned about food safety, but there have been no incidences of foodborne illness in outdoor, homeless, foodservice history. At one of the Health Dept. hearings, someone asked if the shelters had to meet these requirements. The answer came back, “We don’t have the budget for that.”

This exposed the real agenda of the Health Dept. It is to overburden church groups and citizen groups who are operating on a shoestring like we are, so that we can no longer do what we do.  There are not enough indoor facilities to serve all who need to eat. Furthermore, not all whom we serve are homeless. Those who are not homeless do not feel comfortable going into those facilities, but many of them need to get free meals in order to afford rent. Many do not have cooking facilities, so these are the only hot meals they get.

The Mayor talked about access to social services inside. We serve a whole group of people who are not allowed inside the shelters for one reason or another. Philly Restart helps people get their birth certificates and Social Security cards. We have helped people reconnect with family. We provide people who are moving off the street with cleaning supplies and, more important than that, an ongoing social connection. We have provided homeless students with books, including one nurse who gave me his graduation program when he graduated cum laude, while living on the street! That’s independence.

All the City can see is a one size fits all, force everyone in approach. This tells me THAT THEY REALLY DO NOT HAVE CLUE ONE IN DEALING WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE!

Most homeless people are not homeless because they fit into a mold and were easily corraled. Among the homeless, you have the most quintessential, American independents you will find anywhere on God’s green earth! Unless you can recognize that and embrace that and to some degree celebrate that, you will not “solve” the homeless problem.

We do not have a problem with the city “inviting” groups to serve indoors. We do not have a problem with anyone who serves indoors. That’s great. We have a problem with the city serving substandard food at its shelters and then forcing everyone into them. We have a problem with the city opening a bunch of churches and saying that that’s the only place you can eat, even if it offends your conscience.  This is not dignity, that is incarceration on the one hand and humiliation on the other.

We do not ask permission to exercise our religious freedom.

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

The King’s Jubilee started in a Prison so this event may be very relevant.

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church Retreat

Holy Trinity Orthodox Church Lenten Retreat, March 24, 2012

 

I am sorry for posting this so late. I have been very ill and sleeping a lot.

The King’s Jubilee was first formed out of the Saturday morning Bible study of about 150 men from E-Block at Graterford Prison. I shared the vision and asked them what I personally should be doing. They told me I should be serving food and sharing clothing and blankets in Jesus’ Name in center city Philadelphia. Come rain or ice or snow or wicked mayors and their decrees, I haven’t found a good reason to stop yet.

I went to prison just because i had some free time and a friend suggested I try it. Maybe you need to try it. God could use it to call you to do something truly amazing.