As a great-great-grandson of a secretary of war, grandson of the drafter of the Nagasaki bombings and son of a minuteman missile operator, Keith McHenry, 54, has deep roots in American war history.

With a namesake entrenched in U.S. military conflict, he feels compelled to walk another path. He is an international peace activist.

He was one of several members of The Coalition to End the Meal Limit NOW! who rallied Wednesday afternoon at the farmers market in Bo Diddley Plaza in downtown Gainesville.

"I feel like I have a responsibility to return America to a democracy, if it ever was one," McHenry explained during a recent presentation at the Civic Media Center.

The coalition is a collective initiative to get the 130-meal limit at St. Francis House. The coalition is proposing to change the cap to a three-hour block of time in which meals can be served.

Local supporters marched to the Paradigm Properties offices on Main Street Wednesday to protest what Nathan Collier, owner of parent company Collier Companies, has chosen to be his public stance on feeding the homeless in the downtown area.

The coalition and other citizens said they are upset over an email Collier sent to the City Commission in March with the subject line, "PLEASE keep Downtown Meal Limit! Vagrants are a serious, ongoing problem at Arlington Square Apartments downtown."

The coalition believes that developers have been influential in keeping the meal limit, even after the City Plan Board prompted the City Commission in March to replace it for the three-hour block alternative.

"It's not just for the homeless, it's the working poor that need to be fed," said Trisha Ingle, a picketer with the coalition. "The millionaires don't want the dirty, unwashed masses near their places of business."

McHenry was an art student at Boston University when he started Food Not Bombs with seven other students.

More than 30 years later, the autonomous organization is dedicated to salvaging and sharing food to promote political change and has movements in cities all over the world, including Gainesville.

Feeding programs like Food Not Bombs have been a focus in Gainesville since the city passed an ordinance that restricts the amount of meals served at St. Francis House to 130 meals a day.

While the city has said it is residents and business owners who are in favor of the meal limit, the recent influx of petitions from the Southeast Gainesville neighborhood demonstrates otherwise, according to a release from the Coalition to End the Meal Limit NOW!.

Robbie Czopek, 26, is part of the information committee of the coalition and a local Food Not Bombs supporter and has seen the need for nutritional aid through both groups.

After hearing McHenry speak about the food-sharing practices of Food Not Bombs, Czepok said, "The need for local feeding programs is there, and there are solutions available."


(7) comments

Rob Brinkman

The meal limit currently only applies to St. Francis House, people can and do feed people at other locations such as the Community Plaza just four blocks up main Street from St. Francis house. What is needed are more people willing to feed people on a regular basis, public spaces such as parks, the Community plaza or City hall are great locations to do this.

Justin Wooten

What the Coalition is doing here is important. This is a battle between basic human decency and greed. Nathan Collier is an evil, rich scumbag (redundant, I know).


You are correct that people can be served food elsewhere. St. Francis house has the ability to feed more but can't. They have an abundance of food and volunteers and there is no reason why either should not be put to good use.

The ideal behind the 130 limit is to disperse the "burden" of the homeless population from the downtown area. This is erroneous for two reasons:
1) Not everyone that is served at St. Francis is homeless. Many are the working poor who cannot afford a meal that day.
2) The meal limit is in effect now and has not dispersed the homeless population nor will it. Food is served early, over within an hour, and yet the homeless stay near by.

Addressing the core causes of homelessness is needed. This is done more so on the county level but the city still has some responsibilities. The One Stop Center is a start although its location makes it less accessible and the construction is taking far too long.

Sean Larson

Rob, you must have misunderstood, both the posts and the protest. We have gone door to door for more than a month discussing the issue with residents all around the downtown area and in adjacent neighborhoods, and in all that time we did not find a resident who supported the meal limit. Now, one would think that if there is indeed this group of people who do not support the changes, we would have run into them, or they would have made their voices heard somehow. The only person to (irrationally) support the meal limit is Nathan Collier. If his voice of support has more weight for the City Commission than hundreds in opposition, we don't have a democratic arena in which to discuss this. That is what the protest was about: what appears to be Collier's hold over the City Commission. If this is not true, where are the other supporters, who supposedly have a greater number than those in opposition? If this is not true, why doesn't the City Commission listen to their own planning board and approve the time frame petition?

The St. Francis House has the facilities and resources the serve ALL the hungry, and there is no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to. The meal limit solves nothing, a bare fact that the City Commission has never, ever addressed.


It is a continuing tragedy for Gainesville that Rob Brinkman is not on the City Commission.

mama trish

apparently someone doesn't know what the word "tragedy" means. it is a tragedy that "our" local government have made it illegal for one group to help human beings in need. it is a tragedy that a multi-millionaire is running the show, and can get an audience with the commission at a moment's notice, but they won't meet with the coalition. and it's a tragedy that james ingle, the only politician in town with the guts to be on the right side of this, is not on the city commission...


Has Mr Brinkman gone over to the dark side....
Contrary to popular belief, people are not being fed on a regular basis in the downtown and neighboring poor neigborhoods, and there is a great deal of hunger out there. The meal limit at St Francis House affects the poor, infirm and elderly who used toeat lunch there and no longer even try to go for the one meal per day that they might eat. The idea that churches all over town are going to start serving lunch(Iand that the city will let them) is a convenient fiction to promote a mean sensless regulation.

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