Discussion & Thoughts - Thanksgiving Food Share Bonanza

The crowd around the vegetable tables
A hot vegan plate including red wine soy, pasta with cream sauce & potato skins
A scene from the previous nights cooking party, laid out on the table are dozens of varieties of yummy treats.
Some of the produce at the vegetable tables
This was our clothing & apparel area. People got brand new sneakers, pants, hats, jackets, blankets, etc...
We don't really have signs, so we figured for the event we'd bring this cute little one

The Hempstead Thanksgiving Food Share Bonanza was indeed the largest of all time - both in the scale of people and the sheer volume of what was shared. Within half an hour 10,000’s of pounds of fresh foods made their way into the grocery bags of hundreds of people. To be honest, it’s hard to tell just how many people really were there; from within the crowd all you could see was a sea of people in all directions. From most accounts it seems that at its peak we had over 400 people and about 800 that joined us throughout the entirety of the 2-hour event.

What the Bonanza Looked Like:

Encompassing over a whole city block we had items spread across areas similar to a food store. On the east end of Station Plaza people organized and shared thousands of pounds of clothing, books, apparel and greeting cards. There were warm weather jackets, brand new sneakers, pants & shirts of all sizes and awesome folks like Alex Reisner who helped people find what they were looking for.

More to the north on Station Plaza, there were four tables of awesome hot vegan food. With over 50 meals there was something for everyone, Thai food, potato skins, pasta with red wine soy protein, stuffed peppers and incredible desserts like tofu pumpkin cheese cakes, peanut butter cakes, cookies, brownies etc… We even had a latte table with coffee, syrups and soy whipped cream.

Off W. Columbia St. We had nearly half a dozen tables set up with a vast array of fresh produce and breads; things like whole wheat baguettes, tortillas, muffins, potatoes, yams, cauliflower, grapes, bananas, apples, squash, salads, etc… Everyone got bags of really healthy stuff.

Finally on the West end of the Hempstead Train Station parking lot we had another half dozen tables with Thanksgiving groceries. There were pies, scones, cakes, juices, Vegan Raw Ice Creams, Soyatoo whipped cream, milks, canned goods, teas, root beers, dried fruits, flowers, wheat bran, etc..

Expanding on Thoughts:

The bonanza was simply awesome! Even amongst newcomers there was this great sense of community behind it and that’s what I feel makes us so strong. Long Island Food Not Bombs isn’t about charity, nor is it about giving handouts or providing donations. What we’re about is solidarity with our community.

At a food share we are all equal, we are all welcomed to participate and when we make decisions we all have a voice; we all have a say. Our goal isn’t to just put a bandage on the problems that exist in our community; our goal is to solve them. For example, Long Island Food Not Bombs doesn’t just give out a hot meal we collectively share most, if not all, of what a person might need for their week.

It seems simple, but that action addresses the hunger that exists in our community. It means that parents might not need a second or third job and can spend more time with their kids. It means that a family of four struggling to get by can save $80 a week off their grocery bill, $4,160 a year, and $74,880 over an 18 year period. Or in other words, it means that family can now send their 2 kids to college.

The truth of the matter is that I can write forever about the Thanksgiving Bonanza, about Long Island Food Not Bombs, about our food shares. What is happening right now is based in an awesome community, it’s uniquely different, and it has a seemly endless potential.

So where do I go from here? What is it that I hope you gain from this?... If there is only one thing you, the reader, gain from these testimonials I hope it’s a bravado to get sh*t done, to take responsibility in making something incredible and take what you love to the next level. We can help you, we can show you how to get 10,000’s of pounds of food, feel free to ask us questions or share your thoughts. Dialogue is what we’re looking for; it’s the road we take toward greater things.

With much love, & liberation,
JonSTeps & Long Island Food Not Bombs.

Thoughts about the Hempstead Thanksgiving Bonanza

"The idea was Jon's really -- have a huge Thanksgiving Bonanza event, promote the sh*t out of it, make it something to remember. I think "epic" was the word he used, and when we met in Witches Brew after our Hempstead Food Share one Sunday, the list of things to do, supplies we needed, was something that would even make Homer balk.

Our Odyssey has taken us, so far, to Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Huntington, Hempstead, and Farmingville. But like they say, every journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. I started by spreading the word to my family and roommates, and I was able to get a lot of used and new clothing to bring to the Food Shares in Hempstead, Huntington, and Farmingville. I started twittering a few times a day about the menu we were planning for the Hempstead Food Share. I wrote a press release, Alex Reisnar proofread and edited it, and that made its way into cyberspace as well.

As this was happening, the supplies piled up, taking up real estate in Jon's dining room and garage, as well as in my parents' garage and everyone's cars. And the more we got, the more people heard about us and wanted to help out. When we ended up with 2,000 pounds of vegan whipped cream, someone else pitched in raw vegan ice cream. People chipped in cash, and we purchased vegan supplies from a restaurant distributor and some alcohol for the cooking party.

In the end, the amount of food we had was matched only by the amount of people who came to the Hempstead Food Share. I did the vegetables table alongside two Hofstra students, a 14 year old Salvadorean Hempstead High School Student, a man my father's age, and an old Italian woman. Together, we shared apples, bananas, grapes, tomatoes, lemons, limes, cauliflower, potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes, and radishes. The crowd was massive, so I couldn't see the other tables, but I knew the supplies they were stocked with: Thanksgiving groceries, sweets, juice, cooked food, bread, clothing ...

I think the most exciting part about it was that we were able to do something special for Thanksgiving. For some people, the holiday is a way to see family and enjoy a meal, but for other people, it can be stressful or even impossible to afford the groceries you need. In the end it was a lot of work, but I'm really happy with what we accomplished."- Monica Wendel

What we gave out:
HUNDREDS of pounds of vegan whipped cream
Fresh cookies, cakes, pies (for lunch at the Food Share)
Vegan raw ice cream
Fresh, organic produce
Thanksgiving groceries -- pasta, canned goods
Cookies and pies to take home
Hot cider (to warm you up at the Food Share!)
Coffee -- your choice of mint syrup, gingerbread syrup, soymilk, and
sugar (to keep everyone on their feet!)
Hot tea (again at the Food Share)
Warm lunch
Yogurt or milk
.... I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting, but you get the idea : )

"I will be forever moved by the experience I had at the Hempstead food share on Sunday, November 22nd 2009. Folks made amazing vegan food the night(s) before. It was a labor of love, while sharing the nourishing products with several hundred people. This blew me away...we were truly building community. There was something for everyone. But this isn't a once-a-year feel good edition, it's multiplied by over 150 times on Long Island each year!" - Jon Grindell

"The Hempstead Food Share Bonanza did not start that day, it started with thoughts months ago, and then talking, planning and getting the word out. For me, I told everyone I knew that we are planning this massive food share for Thanksgiving, and we hope to have what everyone needs for the big day. I learned something, that all you have to do is put the word out there, ask people if they have clothes or books or toys, and they are more than happy to give. I asked everyone I know, I put out emails and made phone calls. Family, friends, neighbors, even people I don’t know, came and gave me things. Most people told me the same thing; that they were glad to give, but there was something personal about knowing where their stuff was going.

Then there was the “night before cooking party” oh the food; the endless recipes. How delicious a vegan menu can be. We cooked and cooked and cooked; and Jon stayed up all-night and cooked more.

The next day, for Hempstead Thanksgiving Food Share, an unbelievable amount of people, receiving groceries, clothes, books, and Food, Glorious Food! I was going around taking pictures, trying to capture the moment, the faces, and the joy. There was no place I would rather be that day than right there. I love the conversation, the hugs, and the love.

I see a community coming together, and hope for the future. I have learned so much from so many people through Food Not Bombs. I see the results of putting a little effort in and the rewards are endless. I have never met so many giving people, and young people with unbelievable amounts of energy, that spreads throughout the group.

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this whole experience. I want next year to be bigger and I would love for more people to get involved, get more stores to donate food and just keep it going until we all realize that food is a right." - Rose Zacchi

"I would like to first say thanks for a wonderful Thanksgiving food share in Hempstead. It was quite something. I remember the first time I went to FNB back in April I believe in Hempstead on Easter Sunday if memory serves me correctly, and to see how FNB has grown since then to this past Sunday's amazing Food Share in Hempstead is quite something.

In terms of how I feel personally about FNB or my involvement over these past 8 months leading up to the present; as some of you may know I am a Social Worker, for close to 25 years now I have been involved in Social Work, and I have worked with the mentally ill, the homeless, the poor, substance abuser's, people coming out of prison, there is not much I have not seen, and not many groups I have not worked with, it's a rewarding profession, and Food Not Bombs I think is a kind of "grass roots" Social Work in a way; looking to help provide Social Change in communities by assisting those in need with food and other necessities that help make life a bit more manageable for those in need.

I believe that Social Change starts from morality. And the FNB group led by Jon, Monica and Vinny clearly are driven by a moral message that people should not have to go hungry. And that if people come together and work together then we don't only have to rely on the government for everything. But that communities can bond together and provide where the government is lacking. This Thanksgiving Food Share in Hempstead was the culmination of great planning, teamwork, and the effort of so many led by a very dedicated core group of wonderful people.

I love also that the FNB group is a very open minded group. Those we help vary in many ways, economically, socially, culturally, and ethnically. FNB supports people, all people, including immigrants, undocumented or otherwise. This is one of their great strengths; the humanity of Food Not Bombs.

It is nice to see so many people coming together to join and help the FNB family. The Food Not Bombs Thanksgiving celebration and food share this year means a lot to me, as I'm sure it has to all those that attended. I think the people that come to the Food Shares must learn to appreciate what special people Jon, Vinny, Monica, Rose, and all the John's are, as well as all the other's that come and support FNB, and dedicate their precious time for this wonderful cause.
One last comment, JonSTeps is one awesome Vegan Chef, and his "Heart of Gold" leads the way of the Long Island, "Food Not Bombs".

Happy Thanksgiving to all the FNB family, Fondly" - John Mahon

"I should start with the fact that anyone can find any job and do it with Food not Bombs. I got to be a logistics expert, a donation collector, a dumpster diver, a driver, a "Thanksgiving meal grocery table" Captain, a volunteer, and part of a larger community.

The days leading up to Sunday's food share were long and productive. Sorting through our normal collections to find special ingredients worth saving created a pile of cooking supplies for holiday meals. Spending the nights hunting for the golden dumpster produced carloads of good food that would have otherwise gone to absolute waste!

The night before the Sunday food share in Hempstead I spent in a kitchen. I was baking, gutting, and stuffing potatoes. I was deep-frying for 4 hours. I was elbow deep in dishes. I was surrounded by really awesome people, good music and good food. We had a solid group of dedicated activists, some old friends, and new faces.

I was able to grab a few winks of sleep before we had to get the ball rolling on Sunday. I was packing cars and on the phone. We had to give directions and coordinate a fleet of almost 15 vehicles carrying tables, groceries, clothing, books, 800 lbs of soy whip cream, and of course all of the delicious hot vegan food. The last official order of business was the trek to Whole foods to get the last huge donation before the food share. We met up and filled the trunks and back seats of eager volunteers with 100's of pounds of groceries!

I left early from the Whole Foods parking lot because my car had most of the tables. When I arrived in Hempstead 100's of community members were anxiously waiting for the event to start. By the time our cars were unloaded 100's more had arrived. We had tables of hot food, tables of bulk grocery items, tables of sweets and of course my table, the thanksgiving meal grocery table.

Over the last year that I have worked with FnB we never formed lines because of our disbelief in systems that promote privilege. We had to make a fundamental shift in our operations due to the massive crowd. The line at my table revealed our worst fears and created a lot of tension. Community members had to "take a place" and risk being "at the end of the line". Despite everything, FnB and the Hempstead community became stronger and weathered the storm. We shared soy whip cream, cake mixes, tomato sauce, vegan ice cream, sweets, and various canned goods with everyone who came to my table.

I thought I had seen the biggest turn out for a food share last year when I first joined, but this year was EPIC!! I couldn't see the other tables because I had to focus all my attention on sharing. I was so lucky to have incredible help from two groups of students from Hofstra University. At one point there must have been 400 people getting groceries and hot food and it couldn't have happened without the huge turn out of volunteers.

This whole thing was huge for us. I think times like this show the community how much we care. Nobody can forget what we did here. This is the absolute proof that we can make a difference for the communities of Hempstead, Huntington, and Farmingville.

If someone asks "what is next" the answer is simple, grow. Food shares are a foundation for a greater community on Long Island. We are opening lines of communication for people to share ideas and stories. We are eliminating the myth of food scarcity. We are supporting needs and bringing groups of neighbors together. As we grow our community becomes tighter, our resources become bigger, and we get closer to that level of solidarity that can fight back against racism, sexism, violence, and inadequate community planning.

The thing that surprises me the most about FnB is the connection to reality. Not only do I share the food but I share the experience. It is awesome how easy it is to get donated food, find it lying around, or even how easy it is to get community members involved in the whole process.

Maybe it is in my head because we discuss it so much after food shares, but this could become a model. Imagine having such a vast connection to resources and activists that any act of violence, any cry for help, any natural disaster could be met with tables of endless, free, healthy bags of delicious groceries, hot food, and free clothing. The goal would be to act almost instantly and be sure that needs are met for free. The other goal is to inform our food share communities and get a dialogue set up so that we talk about preventing problems from happening again.

I want to see next years Thanksgiving become something more than what we can comprehend. I want the communities of Long Island to help FnB become the largest food share officially. I want to see community members bring their own collected food and clothing. I want prove that free food makes a difference and see a news channel have the good will to show "breaking news" about something good and happy for a change!" -Vincent Cocca

I am thankful for the ability to put my ideals in action.
Giving Thanks, Part II: Food Not Bombs
NOVEMBER 22, 2009

The following is an awesome post from Karen’s Blog, you should definitely check out more of her writing at the following link.

"This past weekend I had the chance to partake in a very special event hosted by Long Island Food Not Bombs. I helped share thousands of pounds of packaged foods, hot, prepared vegan dishes, fruits, vegetables, clothing and books with the people in Hempstead, Long Island. Though LIFNB share healthy vegan food three times a week on Long Island (in Hempstead, Huntington and Farmingville), November 21st’s Thanksgiving Food Share Bonanza was their biggest in history. And though I am always a bit apprehensive about a day spent on Long Island, I left feeling very thankful I was there.

To explain a bit of my L.I. apprehension (and to get all David Copperfield), I was born and raised on Long Island. As a Brooklyn resident for the last seven years, I still am geographically upon that same stretch of that very long island. Though I have often thought Long Island and Brooklyn to be worlds apart, it is on Long Island where I became who I am, where I established my ideals and values… where, out of the alienation of suburban sprawl, I rebelled through music, doing zines and acquiring a passe of misfits all similarly stifled by the lack of substance we saw in the maze of strip malls we were trapped within. (Now, these misfits are still my closest friends. We’re ex-pat war-buddies who made it out of the oppressive trenches.) I hated Long Island. So much that when I first left my parents’ house, my new home would be on the other side of the country in Seattle, Washington.

But meeting the amazing volunteers and seeing the passion of the LIFNB gang, I realized that this Long Island was different than I remembered. This Long Island was solidarity, change and ideals in action (as opposed to ideals running away across the country, in my case). It was humbling and inspiring and I was glad to have the opportunity to give back to my old home….

I’ll admit, it was vegan food that had brought me out this Sunday morning to the Hempstead Long Island Rail Road station. And in this capacity I was even more taken aback by Long Island’s finest. The amazing hot plates of food we shared to the community were ample and delicious and all-vegan. Food that volunteers cooked, baked and simmered for hours on end to distribute to a community in need. When I went vegan on Long Island 12 years ago, I had to travel far, far away in my rusty old hatchback, covered in stickers, to get to the only Trader Joe’s that existed in the NY-metro area. Or to Wild Oats in Stony Brook between thrift shopping excursions. This was the pre-Whole Foods explosion. Vegan eats were slim then and not as tasty… and finding another vegan, who wasn’t wearing it like a badge on their Long Island Hardcore boyscouts uniform to prove his righteousness (emphasis intended), even harder to find. (Ah, the inherit sexism in the ol’ liXhc scene. This birthed my zine.)

Anyway, I keep digressing because these are my roots. Mmmmm, root vegetables. Yes, food. We served soy chicken wings, chili, quinoa pilafs, stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes with Sweet & Sara strawberry marshmallows, mac & cheese, spanakopita, portobello mushrooms, soy chicken nuggets, bean taquitos, cookies, tofu cream pies… My goodness it was hard to not sample all the delicious vegan foods.

So SuperVegan reported this event here and that LIFNB was bestowed a massive quantity of Soyatoo Whip, 2,000 pounds worth, just in time for the holidays. That is how I found out about the event! Though I headed back to Brooklyn with five containers of Soyatoo, I left with so much more: a love for this new Long Island the folks at LIFNB are helping create, the synergy of action and ideals and inspiration to help me be the change I want in the world. What are we tackling next?" - Karen Zacconi



Special Thanks

Long Island Food Not Bombs would like to give a special thanks to all of the people, companies, organizations and friends who helped make the Bonanza as amazing as it was.

Alex Witkowski Lydon Patterson
Alexandra Reisner Margaret Gotsch
Alice Lalia Salzone Maria Soria Moccia
Brian O'haire Marty's Friend
Charlotte Koons Mark Roth
Chris Ivers Marty
Christiaan Perez Monica Wendel
Daniel Diviney NPR
Deborah Diamant Pax Christi
Golden Earth Worm Raw Vegan Ice Cream Company
Gordan Rose Zacchi
Green Market Ryan Young
Hofstra University Shival Agarwal
Jim Navarre Soyatoo
John Mahon St. Hues
Jon Grindell Supervegan
Karen Sackett Trader Joes
Kasie Boehm Urban Coffee
Lisa Wendel Vincent Cocca
Long Island Alliance For Peaceful Alternatives Whole Foods

More Information/Links

Images from the Hempstead Thanksgiving Bonanza
Facebook Photos from the Hempstead Thanksgiving Bonanza
Announcement of the Hempstead Thanksgiving Bonanza
Hempstead Thanksgiving Food Share Bonanza Event Page
Supervegan Article About LIFNB
NPR story about our Food Share in Farmingville
Vegan Victuals Blog about the Event

Your Thoughts

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Bonanza as well. If you participated what did you think about it? What would you like to see next us do next, or what would you like to see for next Thanksgiving? If you didn’t participate or you’re not from our parts we’d also love to hear your thoughts, especially if you’d like to do something like this as well. Please add your thoughts as comments below.

Posted Dec 1 2009 - 2:00pm by LongIslandFNB

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