Politics and pasta salad: Food Not Bombs offers free food in low-income areas

An activist group that started handing out free food at protests has started a standalone event to provide free meals to the community in Saskatoon.

Saskatoon chapter is part of international activist group that serves free vegan, vegetarian meals

Food Not Bombs volunteers handed out macaroni salad at Sunday's event. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

An activist group that started handing out free food at protests has started a standalone event to provide free meals to the community in Saskatoon.   

Alex Deighton said he and other members of Food Not Bombs, an international activism group, saw a need to start serving meals more regularly based on the response at their protest events.

About 80 people showed up for meals at their last event.   

'Solidarity, not charity'

"Food Not Bombs as an organization has chapters all over the world that cook free vegan, vegetarian meals for people from food that would otherwise go to waste," said Deighton.

Deighton said one of the group's slogan is that it focuses on solidarity, not charity.

"We've got a little bit more of a political edge to us and like to get people talking about the root causes of hunger, poverty, inequality."
Elaine Nieman serves up macaroni salad made from donated food from local gardens and market vendors. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

Food Not Bombs describes itself as a volunteer movement that works to end hunger and poverty and that supports actions to stop the globalization of the economy.

1st event held Sunday

The Saskatoon chapter, which is comprised of up to 10 regular volunteers, held its first event to serve meals to the community at the Grace Adam Metawewinihk Park in the Pleasant Hill area on Sunday.

People of all ages took banana muffins, containers of macaroni salad and potato chowder prepared by the volunteers.

Every free food place is kind of far and this is kind of bringing it into the Pleasant Hill area.- Shania  Thompson, Pleasant Hill resident

Elaine Nieman said some of the people they served expressed their gratitude, saying they felt such a service is necessary.

"We are trying to set up in some of the neighbourhoods that don't have as many resources but we don't turn anyone away, no matter who comes up to us for food," said Nieman.  

"We don't ask questions, we're just here to serve whoever wants it, whoever needs it, but we do try to aim towards lower-income families and we get a lot of children coming up."

Local mom welcomes volunteers

Shania Thompson recently moved to the Pleasant Hill area where the free meals were served on Sunday.

She and her friends took servings of salad and soup, as well as rice cakes for her two-year-old daughter.

Thompson said having a free meal service would be helpful for the community.
Shania Thompson, who just moved to Pleasant Hill, says she thinks the event will make a difference to people in the neighbourhood. (Alicia Bridges/CBC News)

"Every free food place is kind of far and this is kind of bringing it into the Pleasant Hill area," she said.

The group hopes the free meal events can be held monthly or even weekly, but their frequency will depend on the number of volunteers.

Pushback from other cities

Food Not Bombs groups have come across problems in other cities which tried to prevent food service in public parks without a permit.  

A Florida court ruled in favour of the group after they sued a city for not allowing them to feed free food to the homeless. 

Deighton hopes this will not be an issue in Saskatoon, but said the group will deal with the challenge if and when it occurrs. 

The food at Sunday's event was donated from local gardens, small businesses and farmer's market vendors.