For the last 15 months, I've been cooking and sharing vegan food as a volunteer with San Francisco Food Not Bombs. From the mission statement: "Food Not Bombs recovers and shares free vegan or vegetarian food with the public without restriction in over 1,000 cities around the world to protest war, poverty and the destruction of the environment." This mission aligns perfectly with my values. I only wish I'd started volunteering with FNB much sooner, as I'd seen them at various free events around the Bay Area for years.
Each serving is run independently; there is no hierarchy and no one is really in charge, though there is generally at least one "bottomliner" responsible for each serving. For ours, that's Dana, who's been volunteering for over five years and is currently taking a well-earned break.
Our food comes from various sources, including local grocery stores, farmers markets, and restaurants. Most of the produce donated to us would otherwise go to waste. All of the meals we prepare are vegan, though sometimes we put out donated bread that may contain dairy and/or eggs.
Though we've had a steady core group of volunteers, our serving has had some trouble acquiring enough produce to cook with. At last week's serving, we ran out of stew in only ten minutes. We scrape every last bit of stew or soup out of the bucket to feed as many people as we can.
Giving away food is such a rewarding experience for me. Volunteering with Food Not Bombs led later to my volunteer work with the Free Farm and Free Farm Stand, which I'll write about later this month. I decided to make producing and giving away vegan food my life's work when I had an epiphany shortly before giving up on my attempted career as a freelance photographer. I realized that if anything should be given away freely, it should be food, because not a single being on Earth can live without it.
It is only by societal convention that we've decided that digital art and music are essentially worthless and can be duplicated by anyone at will with virtually no consequences, whereas stealing a loaf of bread, a physical object, can land you in jail. If I'm going to give away my time and work, I'd much rather the product of that work be food, which is essential to life, rather than digital photos, which are not. I may not be able to change the government and the economy to put a priority on giving everyone the baseline essentials of living, but I can volunteer my time to help grow, cook, and distribute food. So that's exactly what I'm doing.