Food Not Bombs Still Feeding The Hungry And Homeless After 40 Years

Food Not Bombs was founded in 1980 in Massachusetts by anti-nuclear activists. In Atlanta, it was initially an anti-war group in the 1980s and 1990s.

Then in 1994, Bob Darby, an advocate for the homeless mentally ill, started a feeding program with Food Not Bombs. For over a decade he did the cooking and fed those who were hungry in the Little Five Points area.

After Darby retired, Adele “Earthworm” MacLean along with a group of young activists started feeding the hungry and homeless. MacLean was involved with Food Not Bombs chapters in other cities before moving to Atlanta.  

By 2011 there were over 200 chapters of Food Not Bombs in the U.S. Chapters are free to make their own decision, based on the needs of the community.

Over the years many cities have passed ordinances prohibiting serving free food without a license or permit but the court has overturned these attempts to stop Food Not Bombs from giving away free food.

November 19, 2017, the City of Atlanta issued a citation to MacLean for purportedly violating state rules requiring a permit for “Temporary Food Service Establishment” in Hurt Park, as reported in Atlanta Progressive News.

The citation was dropped because the information was invalid and/or irrelevant. It was an ongoing effort by the city and the police to intimidate people feeding the homeless on the streets. 

Some people in the city and business community thought they could starve the homeless into overcrowded shelters or move them into facilities out of town. Only the Peachtree and Pine shelter accepted everyone who needed shelter including the mentally ill and addicts.  

But former Mayor Kasim Reed used eminent domain to close Peachtree and Pine and that is when homeless people sleeping in the streets and under Interstate bridges exploded. Five years later the Peachtree and Pine building still sits empty.

Food Not Bombs and other groups continued to feed the hungry as the homeless population sleeping outside grew larger.

Food Not Bombs Transformed Into Food For Life When Covid Hit

Food Not Bombs’ ideology is that corporate and government priorities are skewed to allow hunger to persist in the midst of abundance. To prove their point, a large amount of the food served by the group is surplus food from grocery stores, bakeries, food banks, and warehouses that would be thrown away.

Food Not Bombs has expanded and changed over the years from feeding the homeless meals in public parks to Food4Life the Atlanta Survival Program. In response to the COVID pandemic, Food4Life started deliveries to homes and free grocery distributions at five locations around Atlanta. They believe that food is a human right.


On Saturday at Lakewood on the corner of Lakewood and Rhodesia from noon to 2:30 pm. Also on Saturday at Bankhead on Donald Lee Hollowell from 1:00 to 3:30 pm.

Sunday in the Edgewood area at the corner of Mayson and Hardee close to the “Teardown” from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. 

Tuesday in Clarkston on the corner of East Ponce de Leon and Brockett Roads from 3:30 to 5:30 PM.

Thursday in the West End at 1616 Joseph E. Boone from 1:00 to 4:00 PM.

Anyone who needs food delivered can sign up at this is also the link if you want to volunteer with Food For Life.

“We take food to anyone who signs up. We don’t ask them why they need it. We have 3,386 people currently signed up to receive deliveries but we can only make 50 to 75 deliveries a week, so it’s a long time between deliveries for each person or household,” Earthworm, an organizer behind this huge project, told the Streets of Atlanta.

“I’ve been working with Food for Life since the pandemic helping to do deliveries and setting up this grocery distribution location in Edgewood. We try to make sure people are fed not as charity but more from mutual aid and community care. Sometimes when we are low on volunteers, people who are coming to get food will help us set up and it’s nice to have that exchange,” Blake, a volunteer with Food For Life told the Streets of Atlanta. 

Food4Life gets donations from a food bank, grocery stores, and a huge group of warehouses that is one of the biggest food distribution warehouses in the southeast.  “We go to different vendors there each week to get food donated to us. If we had more volunteers to go to the warehouse with cars or trucks to pick stuff up we could get more food,” Earthworm said.

This massive distribution food giveaway is totally run by volunteers with no grants or government funding.  They especially need more volunteers to bring food from where it is stored to the in-person grocery giveaway locations.

“I have been working with Food For Life for about two years and I like doing it because it helps the community.  We have about 20 full-time volunteers, we usually have about 5 working at each distribution location,” Taylor, a volunteer with Food For Life, told the Streets of Atlanta. Many others have volunteered but not on a regular basis.

“Food is a human right and we are very happy to be doing this work. It’s really sad that we have oppressive forces that try to stop this kind of work but don’t try to create something like it. They would rather destroy good food before it reaches hungry people. As long as people are hungry, there will be people like us out here trying to take care of each other,” Molly, a volunteer with Food For Life, told the Streets of Atlanta.

written and photos by Gloria Tatum

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