Feeding the Revolution

Posted on October 25, 2011 by

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Joseph Bieber said his job on the Food Committee is a tough one.

“It’s one of the hardest,” he said. “Everyone needs food and comfort.”

Joseph, an unemployed construction worker, has been with the occupation since its beginning on October 6, 2011. He said the food committees was one of the few committees that formed prior to the occupation. Volunteers on that committee currently feed roughly 1,500 people per day. Joseph, who ruefully admitted he shares the last name with a well-known pop icon, said it is difficult to determine how many of those are occupiers and how many are homeless. The tent city is currently home to both.

When it is not serving food, the food tent is draped by a tarp. It has many of the amenities of a makeshift kitchen: plastic bins, utensils, and milk crates. Handwritten signs advertising serving times and necessary duties hang behind the tables that provide the service area for those passing through the line.

Area churches have played a role in providing Occupy with food. They include the American Friends Service Committee, located at 15th and Cherry Streets, and the Arch Street United Methodist Church, located at Arch and Broad Streets. Other spiritual communities have stepped up, as well.

“It’s a good marriage,” said Tony Heriza. Tony is both the Friends Liaison to Occupy and Director of the Office of Educational Outreach at the American Friends Service Committee. The AFSC has opened its facility to Occupiers.

Tony said the decision-making process at Occupy is similar to that of some Quaker groups. Other parallels also exist. The Occupy movement is peaceful; the AFSC’s support has made local Quakers happy, he added. The AFSC building has a great tradition of providing forums for historically significant debates, such as suffrage and abolition.

Not only has the AFSC provided space for Occupiers, working groups, and in times of rain, the GA, the kitchen has been available, too. Additionally, Occupiers have access to two computers as well as printers. Quakers have joined the site in an effort to participate more, through the creation of an Interfaith Tent with other spiritual traditions.

Quakers gathered for a prayer service last Sunday, and invited Occupiers to participate. Quakers are among many groups, civic, spiritual, or labor-oriented, that have provided support for Occupy.

As Joseph answered questions, he also provided information for people looking for food as well as those who inquired about donations.

“We do what we can,” he said. “We’re doing better than City Hall.”

While he has provided his service for the Occupation, he looks forward to attending school in the spring at Temple University. In a search for resources through PA CareerLink, he found a program that would help him to pursue education. He plans to study Construction Management.

Though he expresses excitement about his future, he took a more serious tone when he spoke about his duties at the food tent.

“It’s one of the hardest jobs that I never got paid for,” he chuckled. He said service in the community is an important aspect of his life.

Items always needed:

  • Water
  • Oil, no peanut
  • Fruit
  • Canned goods

Meal times:

  • Breakfast: 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.
  • Lunch: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Dinner: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
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