These Guys Are Bringing Food, Not Bombs, to Tijuana

A protest movement that aims at feeding the most needy

If you've ever passed by the cathedral in Downtown Tijuana (Calle Segunda) on a Wednesday or Saturday, then you've probably heard someone shouting "Free food! Free food!". Well, that's Food, Not Bombs, a movement that aims at collecting discarded food by restaurants and give it to the neediest.

Around a year ago, the news of the French government banning the practice of many supermarkets of simply throwing away unspoiled food went viral, with most people showing support for such measures. France became the first country to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities aimed at helping the feed the hungry.

The countries where these types of laws could be applied next isn't obvious, but in multiple cities around the world, including Tijuana, this idea is coming to life without the need of a law, as its citizens have empowered themselves with this duty.

Photo: Food, Not Bombs in Tijuana

Food Not Bombs started back in the state of Massachusetts, first as an movement against nuclear energy that ended up being a movement fueled by people who started collecting discarded food and serving it for free in city parks and open spaces as a protest.

I had the chance of speaking with Chris and Camel, both of them are involved in Food, Not Bombs movement in Tijuana. They are currently based in two places: Café A and Hostel Pangea, both located at the Calle Primera walkway.

"It's a form of protesting the fact that there's a bunch of people out there in the streets who are famished, why is there's so much money being spent on food, why is there so much money being spent on other things but not take care of something as basic as feeding the population, the homeless. Governments keep ignoring these types of things and I believe that here in Tijuana, the problem is even more relevant", said Chris.

Photo: Luz Gabriela Macías

This is why it's necessary that the same citizens and non-governmental organizations look for their own ways to heal a social problem that hasn't been solved yet, they say.

"We basically dedicate ourselves to gathering about-to-be-discarded food but that is still in perfect conditions and just because of aesthetics or other commercial issues they throw it away because it's not marketable anymore, you can't sell it anymore and we save it, collect it all here in the community kitchen and prep it. Every volunteer comes here and chops vegetables, cook, it's like friends getting together to cook", said Camel regarding the modus operandi of Food, Not Bombs in Tijuana.

VIDEO: COMIDA NO BOMBAS TIJUANA

The food they serve, which is mostly vegetarian and vegan, is obtained from Mercado Hidalgo and Mercado Juárez, long-established farmer markets in the city.

They assure us that they have been doing this "food-rescuing thing" for four years now, since Chris started with the idea in Tijuana. Little by little the owners of the marketplaces got wind of their movement and they started collaborating, making everything simpler with even an established food pick-up schedule, which is given to them for free.

"We start the food recollection at noon, during the evening we prep it and by 7:30 to 8:30 we serve it in the Cathedral Plaza in Downtown Tijuana, on Calle Segunda. On past Wednesdays, less people came by, but with time, there's been more people", they said.

Photo: Luz Gabriela Macías

At the beginning of their movement, they would cross the border to San Diego to get food from specialized stores that ended up throwing food away that apparently wasn't fit to be sold anymore.

"Actually, back when we started, we even went to San Diego to pick up food that was thrown away. On Friday's, Sprouts and those kinds of market stores throw away a 'shit-load' of food that is in good condition. We went there around midnight to take out the boxes to bring them here, cross the border, but now it's not that easy to cross with that much food. It doesn't matter though, since there's food here and it's easier for us to go to supermarkets that support us", affirmed Chris.

Photo: Video screen capture of COMIDA NO BOMBAS TIJUANA

Every meal serving is called a chapter and currently they do two per week in the same location, in Downtown Tijuana. In each of these chapters, they give food to 100 to 150 people.

But, who are the ones that keep the movement alive in the city? Chris and Camel claim that it's the work of volunteers. There's five people involved directly, but that figure goes up to 10 or 15 depending on the chapter.

"It's always different, since it's (Tijuana) a meeting point for travelers, there's people from all over the world, friends who come and become interested and get involved in the movement", explained Camel.

Photo: Luz Gabriela Macías

However, there's no advertising for Food, Not Bombs, since it's part of the group's guidelines. Their based on the word-of-mouth marketing idea.

"For example, if someone comes to help us and they like the idea and invite some of their friends, then they are totally welcomed to collaborate in the next chapter. Actually, it's always been an open invitation, whoever is interested can come, introduce him or herself, start hanging out with the crew and start doing things. There's no requirements to be part of it, because more than a group, it's an idea. Food, Not Bombs is an idea. If you go to a Food, Not Bombs chapter and like it, but you like on the other side of town, then you can start your own Food, Not Bombs. You can do it in your community, where you live. Basically, that's how the idea is spread", said Camel.

If you're interested in the movement or interested in helping out, you can get it touch with the guys on their Facebook page: Tijuana Comida No Bombas

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oscar.montoya@sandiegored.com

Translated by: edgar.martinez@sandiegored.com

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