April 18, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

Toledo’s Food Not Bombs takes in grocery donations, turns out fresh, free meals

2 min read

Aug. 1—Spaghetti with garlicky mushrooms, served with roasted asparagus. Lettuce dressed with vinaigrette and topped with carrot-raisin salad and avocado wedges. Oven-toasted cheese sandwiches on whole grain bread. Fragrant rice with green beans accompanied by fresh grapes and apples.

These wholesome, hearty dishes were prepared one afternoon in July by the Toledo branch of Food Not Bombs, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to countering war and poverty through culinary social justice.

“We try to make everything as fresh as possible” using local and reclaimed foods, Alyx Kendzierski said.

Food Not Bombs members collect grocery donations from stores (among them, Toledo’s Phoenix Earth Food Co-Op), then cook with the bounty. The food is shared every Thursday at 5:30 p.m. via delivery and at a communal bonfire at 6 p.m. at the Collingwood Garden, 2472 Collingwood Blvd.

The vegetarian/vegan menu “varies very much, week to week,” Monika Perry said as she worked with a dozen others to finish cooking and filling food containers on a recent Thursday.

Much like on the Food Network’s Chopped, the game plan is, “Let’s look at this box of food and come up with something,” Heather Liming said, bustling between the kitchen and the large front room of the Flamb-OWE-nce Community House, 2492 Scottwood Ave., where meal packing was taking place.

A dozen lunches are first prepared for the Northwest Ohio Syringe Services, which offers sterile equipment in an effort to improve health outcomes for addicts. Then nearly 70 dinners are made for those on the delivery list — pre-registered people who live in areas with lack of access to nutritious and affordable food — and for volunteers and anyone who comes to join in the fun at the bonfire.

It’s “solidarity, not charity,” Ms. Perry said. “We’re all living in a system that denies people the things they need to survive,” and Food Not Bombs strives to remedy that. There are no requirements to receive assistance, such as identification cards or proof of financial need.

People who live in the 43604, 43610, 43612, and 43620 ZIP codes who would like to receive free Food Not Bombs meal deliveries on Thursdays can register at bit.ly/3dwHPOT. Anyone interested in volunteering as a cook, kitchen assistant, or driver (for donation pick-ups or meal deliveries) is encouraged to go to bit.ly/3eNZO4g. And the group happily accepts donations of produce from gardens.

The cooking sessions are a lot of fun. “We’re hilarious,” Ms. Liming said with a laugh, as long-time member Eric Everhard jokingly warned that “vampires are not welcome” while sheet pans full of garlic cloves were roasting.

And it is deeply rewarding for Food Not Bombs volunteers to share these delicious meals with their fellow Toledoans.

The recipients they deliver to “are really sweet,” said Ms. Liming, who enjoys being able to develop a personal relationship with them through the weekly visits.

“They’re always so grateful and happy,” she said with a big smile.

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