Feed The People – Lincoln connects working class people to each other
By Evan Carlson
On the surface, Feed the People – Lincoln looks like many food distribution programs. Tables of free food, hygiene products, and clothes lining the basement of a church, and people taking what they need.
But FTP-L is more than that. When I asked C (a member of the program) how this program differed from others, they said, “As someone who grew up in a family that needed distribution charities, [I think] the biggest thing that sets us apart is that there isn’t a feeling of shame when people come to our distributions. We don’t ask questions, people don’t need to fill out anything, they don’t have to prove they’re in need. We just let people come in and grab what they need. We’re working class people helping other working class people.”
This idea of working class people helping other working class people is one I heard time and time again in my interviews with FTP-L members.
I myself joined the organization nine months ago, though it has existed for just over a year now. The first monthly distribution event took place in December 2017, and since then, the program has grown to serve more people and offer more necessities. Despite
losing its first distribution site, The Commons, to the whims of a landlord, the program found new roots at Calvary United Methodist Church, a short distance from the old location.
Outside of the distribution events, FTP-L organizes community fundraiser events including pancake feeds, concerts, and poetry readings where community members get a chance to socialize, organize, and showcase their art. One of the organization’s founding members, JD, also wants these events to help normalize leftist politics. While many working class people have internalized Red Scare fears, these events can change the narrative. We can show that leftist politics benefit the working class and that leftists aren’t the scary people Fox News claims we are.
While FTP-L has accomplished a lot in the span of a year, it has not been without the help of Democratic Socialists of America. I sat down with Chris, a member of both DSA and FTP-L, to hear his thoughts on this collaboration. Chris’s introduction to leftist politics began with DSA, but after hearing about FTP-L’s work, he and other DSA members decided to join the organization. This relationship between organizations proved to be fruitful, leading to joint mutual aid events that included both FTPL’s distribution program and DSA’s brake light repair clinic.
Chris also mentioned the more recent collaboration on the Tenants Solidarity Network, a program to support tenants with housing issues. While DSA started the program, Chris has been happy to see members of FTP-L help with flyering and organizing.
On the horizon for FTP-L is a collaboration with the Lincoln Indian Center, which has faced extreme financial and organizational difficulties over the past year. Additionally, the Indian Center has participated in food distribution work for decades — work recently made more difficult after “the state Department of Health and Human Services told the
Indian Center it was no longer an administrator or distribution site for the federal Commodities Supplemental Food Program…due to irregularities in the financial practices and concerns about organizational capacity that have recently come to light.”
In light of these challenges, C has been coordinating with Indian Center organizers to see how FTP-L can help with food distribution despite these setbacks. Additionally, the Indian Center seeks to clean up and winterize the building, another project FTP-L plans to help with. C mentioned, “FTP-L has established relationships with other organizations, but both FTP-L and the orgs we’ve worked with have been by far mostly white. As a person of color, I want us doing more with other POC. We get a lot of POC coming to our distributions and I want our group to reflect that. NDNs in Lincoln need the Indian Center, and helping them out is the least we can do.” This collaboration between FTP-L and the Indian Center will begin in early 2019.
With all of these community projects in mind, I ended my interviews by asking FTP-L members where they would like to see the organization five years from now. Chris hopes to see the organization “turn into something more like For the People,” offering other forms of mutual aid in addition to food, hygiene products, and clothes. JD echoed this idea, wanting the organization to help with services like childcare, vehicle repair, and education. In order to make this happen, he knows it will be necessary to have a larger organization. But, as he added, “Working class people have all of the skills that everyone needs. It is achievable to utilize those skills to help working class people, not for profit, but for community solidarity.”
C also recognizes the need for a bigger organizational presence in the community. They told me, “When people hear Feed the People-Lincoln, I want them to say they already know who we are. And we’re definitely on our way.”
If you would like to work with FTP-L, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message our facebook page. Additionally, if you would like to attend our distribution events, join us from 10-1 the second Saturday of every month at Calvary United Methodist Church (1610 S 11th Street).