This Day in History

Aug. 15, 1988: Food Not Bombs Volunteers Arrested

Time Periods: 20th Century, Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Food, Organizing
Keith McHenry arrest.

Arrest of Keith McHenry. Source: Food Not Bombs.

On Aug. 15, 1988, nine Food Not Bombs volunteers, including co-founder Keith McHenry, were arrested for sharing food and literature at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California.

Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer global movement, founded in 1980 by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The group shares free vegetarian meals to protest war and poverty.

Food Not Bombs cofounder Keith McHenry told Elizabeth King for Teen Vogue:

In his early 20s, he was inspired by his history professor, A People’s History of the United States author Howard Zinn, to get involved with protests against New Hampshire’s Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant. After an associate was arrested during an anti-Seabrook protest in May 1980, McHenry and friends put on a bake sale to raise money for his legal defense, planting the seeds for what would become Food Not Bombs.

As described in The Nation, Food Not Bombs currently has more than 1,000 chapters worldwide. The chapters operate autonomously as long as they agree to three preconditions: “serve vegetarian meals to all equally; use the abundance of wasted food in our society to redistribute it to those in need; and try to end war and poverty while you’re at it!”

The song “Food Not Bombs” was written in August of 2018 as a tribute to Keith McHenry and the Food Not Bombs organization by Joe DeFilippo. The song is performed by the R. J. Phillips Band, a group of Baltimore musicians.