Occupy Wall Street People’s Kitchen

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Rachel Signer:

"“The kitchen’s the keeper of the flame,” Bill Borenstein tells me as he pushes a mop across the floor of the Liberty Café, the soup kitchen in East New York’s Industrial Park where the Occupy Wall Street People’s Kitchen prepares dinner, Monday through Friday, for as many as three hundred people. “As long as there’s food at Occupy, people show up,”

Borenstein is a wiry, energetic man in his fifties who has an office job that he doesn’t say much about. He has been drafting a grant application to the Movement Resource Group, a 501c3 formed by the founders of Ben and Jerry’s, Nirvana’s

“People who otherwise wouldn’t have participated in May Day are able to look at this sort of stuff, see what it is we’re able to do and that we’re not trying to hurt anybody,” said Smith of the SF Commune action. “SFPD’s biggest mistake was letting us do this,” said Jesse Smith. “It just proves to us and every other Occupy in the country that this can be done.”

Less than a week after this raid, on Easter Sunday, April 8, the SF Commune was “resurrected” at another Catholic Church property, this time as a clandestine occupation. San Francisco police encouraged property owners in the city to board up their vacancies a few days later, seemingly without knowledge of the Commune’s return. The Commune released a statement in response: “Now when the Police destroy even more doors and barricades, they can try to convince people that it is the occupiers causing ‘property damage.’ No problem, we got this.”former manager, and other 1%ers who want to keep Occupy going. In the application, Borenstein stresses how the Kitchen has been central to the movement in many ways. Back in the days of Zuccotti Park, the mainstream media loved calling attention to how free meals drew unemployed and homeless people from all over (in an article called “Want to Get Fat on Wall Street? Try Protesting,” the New York Times quoted one Occupier boasting that he had gained five pounds after twelve days of tenting up in the park). To some extent, Occupy’s daily presence has made it something of a bread line, feeding whoever is hungry and nearby—but Kitchen’s main purpose is to keep activists fed so they can keep on working.

“So why food? What does this have to do with Occupy?” Borenstein writes in the application. “On the simplest, most practical level, we help people in our community to work—a person can participate in a Direct Action instead [of] looking for temp work to pay for tomorrow’s dinner, a meeting can progress instead of breaking up for lunch, an arrestee can remain calm in jail knowing that a hot meal is waiting [upon his] release.” (http://www.nplusonemag.com/images/Gazette4.pdf)