Food Safety



A safe way to share food with the hungry

Food Not Bombs has shared free vegan and vegetarian meals for 30 years providing meals in nearly 1,000 cities and no one has ever reported being made ill. All state laws require people selling food to have a permit. No states require people sharing free food to have a permit. Our volunteers follow these simple steps to making sure our meals are always safe. The main safety measure we implement is that all our food is vegan or vegetarian. This fact alone reduces a risk that anyone will become ill. We always wash our hands and wrists with warm soapy water before touching the food we are preparing. We also share the meals before harmful bacteria have a chance to be a threat to people’s health. With so many people going hungry it is not easy to have enough food prepared to provide meals for longer than the three hours it can take to make people ill. Bacteria multiply most rapidly between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C), a range known as the Food Temperature Danger Zone and after three hours in this zone, bacteria may start to become a safety issue particularly if the meal includes meat or dairy. Your meals will leave the stove above 140°F (60°C) and still be at that temperature by the time you are sharing it with your community. Your chapter can place the prepared food into coolers to keep the food outside the Food Temperature Danger Zone. Some groups prepare their meals on propane stoves or over wood fires on site which also protects the public from harmful bacteria. We also ask that volunteers that smoke to wait until they are finished cooking or serving the meal and remember to wash their hands after they take a smoking break, before returning to cook or share the food. Washing your hands with soap and warm water after going to the toilet is also an important way to protect the community when providing free vegan and vegetarian meals. Another saftey measure involves always cutting your produce and breads on a cutting board that you can clean often and to take care to clean and disinfect all your cooking equipment.

Your chapter might bring three buckets of water out to your meal, one with soap, one with disinfectant like chlorine, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide and one bucket for rinsing. The three bucket method makes it possible to use your limited supply of dishes and flatware to feed hundreds of people. Many of the people relying on our meals can be a greater risk of illness because of their economic conditions so Food Not Bombs volunteers take particular care with food safety. Simple low tech practices like washing our produce and our hands, and preparing only organic vegan and vegetarian meals that are shared in a short amount of time, protects the community we are feeding.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act


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