A Place of Their Own

The all-volunteer, always free, always accessible Richmond Food Not Bombs is looking for a new home.

“Createspace was amazing,” says Food Not Bombs volunteer Laney Sullivan of FNB’s base for the past five years. “But we all decided it was best for us to move on to a space where we can build up a kitchen to increase our capacity and to find a place that is more aligned with our [not-for-profit] values.”

For nearly 30 years, folks like Sullivan have been serving vegan or vegetarian meals to anyone who needs to eat —no questions asked—once a week at Monroe Park.

Before moving into Createspace in 2017, the Richmond chapter of the global, food-for-all movement operated solely out of people’s homes.

“It was….very intense on these homes,” says Sullivan. “We would be producing a commercial amount of food, using giant pots and bins. We’d set up tables in the living room with everyone chopping and preparing food.”

Createspace was a huge step up for the guerilla operation. “We were able to build a kitchen and fit all of our equipment into Createspace,” says Sullivan. “We had a compost pile out back, a garden, a pantry space.”

As part of its continued evolution, Sullivan says FNB is currently seeking a commercial space along Hull Street or somewhere in the Southside, East End, or Northside, “that is on the bus line and easily accessible.” If the stars aligned, they’d also like to potentially partner with other like-minded organizations to create a sort of “mutual aid hub.”

To help with the transition, FNB has created an online fund-raising page; since launching at the end of February 2022, the campaign has already raised over $8,000 of their $10,000 goal. This is thanks to generous contributions from community members, notably three large sums raised by Black Rabbit Tattoo artists through online raffles.

“Way to go to the community,” says Sullivan, who has been with Richmond’s chapter of FNB for 15 years, wearing, as community volunteers are wont to do, many hats.

While she used to be more boots-on-the-ground, helping lift heavy boxes and prep rescued food each weekend, lately Sullivan, with a three-month old baby at home, has served the organization behind the scenes.

“We have about twenty people in our communication thread, and our volunteer page has almost 500 people, we have a wide network,” she says. “I would encourage people who have volunteered in the past to think about re-engaging as we make this transition.”

The transition will require simultaneously moving FNB’s equipment out of Createspace and finding a place to store it, all while continuing to serve the community —anywhere from 30 to 100 people depending on the weather, every Sunday at Monroe Park.

The ethos of the FNB movement is to draw in both the helpers and those who need help organically, creating “solidarity, not charity.” Sullivan urges that even if you cannot donate money to the cause, you can always donate time and energy.

Specifically, those interested can help in several ways: by connecting FNB with a 10×15 storage space to store the group’s fridges, stoves, shelving, sinks and more; by donating large plastic storage bins and hot or prepared meals on Sundays; by helping the group find a temporary kitchen to use on Sundays as well as a home base with cheap or reduced rent; and by volunteering to help move or pack up the Createspace kitchen on Sundays throughout March.

In addition to FNB campaign supporters and their dedicated network of volunteers, Sullivan says the organization also receives support from Underground Kitchen, which donates prepared meals, and local groceries like Whole Foods and Good Foods, who donate both grocery items and pre-made sides and entrees.

In the event that there are leftover groceries or meals, Sullivan says that nothing is wasted. “We only compost things that are rotten,” she says. “We have drop-off locations like elder care facilities and community fridges where we will take whatever is not used.”

To donate to Richmond Food Not Bomb’s Moving Fund, go here.

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