Food Not Bombs co-founder, KEITH McHENRY was born in Frankfurt, West Germany in 1957 while his father was stationed there in the army. His paternal great, great, grandfather was Dr. James McHenry, who signed the United States Constitution and served as a general in the Revolutionary War and as Secretary of War under George Washington he founded the U.S. military.
His paternal grand father was a ranger with the National Park Service. Keith’s paternal grandmother Bona Mae (Ford) McHenry picked cotton as a child in the New Mexico Territory.
Two of her uncles, Bob and Charlie Ford joined Jesse Jame’s gang in 1882 and killed the famous train robber for a $5,000 reward. Her uncles were the subject of several popular folk songs.
Keith’s maternal grandfather was an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army during World War II and helped plan the fire bombing of Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He also was a lawyer in the Massachusetts State Attorney General’s Office. Keith’s great great grandfather Charles Vanderpool designed the dynamo and co-founded the General Elecrtic Company.
Keith’s mother Martha got her degree from Wellesley College, raised her family and ran their farm on Cape Cod.
Keith moved with his family to Logan, Utah in 1958 where his father worked for Morton-Thiokol testing Minuteman Missiles while he worked on his Masters Degree in zoology at Utah State.
He also worked many places including the Boston Paint Company, Budget Car Rental, Reilieys Roast Beef, and at the famous Passim Coffee House in Harvard Square. Keith was active with Clanshell Alliance and made trips to Seabrook, New Hampshire to protest Nuclear Power and organized actions in Boston, New York and Washington D.C. for peace in El Salvador and Iran, alternative energy and organic gardening as well as protests against the draft, drug testing, the Contra War in Central America, the nuclear arms race and many other issues.
Keith owned an advertising firm called Brushfire Graphics in Boston. He designed calendars, ads, and brochures for the Boston Celtics, the Boston Red Sox, the Environmental Protection Agency, and a multitude of commercial and alternative businesses. He won several Clio Awards for his designs.
His anti-nuclear war street art became the subject of an Off Broadway play called Murder Now! and a film called The Sidewalk Sector. Years later he worked as a graphic designer for Hallmark Cards and produced a full color weekly magazine in Kansas City.
Keith and seven friends started the first Food Not Bombs chapter in 1980 in Cambridge.
They participated in street performances with music, theater, puppets, literature, movies and food every week in Harvard Square, provided food to most of the housing projects and shelters in the Cambridge area, produced a free concert with free food in a park, organized and provided meals at protests all over the east coast.
After eight years of serving free food and doing graphic arts work in Boston, Keith moved to San Francisco where he started a second Food Not Bombs group.
Since then, Keith has been arrested over 100 times for serving free food in city parks and he has spent over 500 nights in jail.
In 1995 Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Commission joined thousands of supporter in working for his release.
He faced 25 years to life after being framed under the California Three Strikes Law, because of his Food Not Bombs work. He also co-authored and illustrated the book Food Not Bombs: How to Feed the Hungry and Build Community which has sold more than 10,000 copies in four languages. The 20th Anniversary English edition was published in Tucson by See Sharp Press.
His work with Food Not Bombs also appeared in Amnesty International’s Human Rights Report in 1995, No Trespassing by Anders Corr, Interviews With Icons by Lisa Law and in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
He was the recipient the 1999 Local Hero Award by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Resister of the Year in 1995 and the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness gave him the Advocate of the Year Award in 2006.