After a series of crackdowns by Middletown officials against Middletown Food Not Bombs, the food activists are going on the offensive. Today, FNB filed a federal injunction that would halt a cease and desist order which bars the group from meal-sharing activities unless food is prepared in a Health Department registered kitchen. The target of the injunction is both the city of Middletown and the state of Connecticut. According to the FNB press release, the cease and desist order also applies to “political” activities as well. And, in a lawsuit filed on Friday, FNB argues that attempts to stop FNB’s public meals infringe on the group’s constitutional rights and has a chilling effect on such activities elsewhere. Food Not Bombs is a loosely organized, all volunteer non-hierarchical organization which serves food in public places, not as charity, but as a political statement against war, poverty, excess and inequality. The nearly 30 year old movement follows the slogan “food is a right, not a privilege.” Every Sunday afternoon Middletown FNB serves free vegetarian meals to anyone who wants to eat. Other community members bring food to share as well.
Community resident, turned FNB activist, Fred Carroll had this to say about the ongoing clash:
“Food Not Bombs has been sharing vegetarian meals and groceries in Middletown for at least ten years. For the last two or three years I’ve participated in the meal sharing on Main Street. I am not homeless, but I have not had a steady income during this time, and the political discussions and healthy and nutritious Sunday meals became an important part of my week. I recently became a more active volunteer with the organization. Sharing food with people is our way of saying that food is a human right, that there is enough of everything to go around if communities were more empowered, and that everyone should be treated as equals.”
Carroll went on to liken FNB’s Sunday routine to a picnic. The injunction maintains that FNB does not distribute food in the same way as a soup kitchen or restaurant and therefore should not be subject to the same Health Department regulations. Said Carroll, “What’s next? The Health Department will come in and regulate people’s picnics in the park?”
The Middletown chapter of FNB has been operating for more than ten years without incident or clashes with municipal or state officials, until earlier this year. In addition to the cease and desist order, FNB activities have been subjected to two citations and one misdemeanor charge, and Middletown health officials confiscated and threw away food, literally right from the hands of hungry residents.
In addition to actions by the city of Middletown, Hartford IMC has also learned from inside sources that there may be a statewide crackdown in the works against all Food Not Bombs collectives active in the state. In response, individual activists from Hartford Food Not Bombs have offered support to Middletown FNB.
HIMC will continue to cover this story as developments unfold.