Full Circle: Food for Thought

I recently had the pleasure of reading from Hunga Dunga at the River Reader in Guerneville, CA.  I had never been to the Russian River area.   I found it to be a most amazing community of small, picturesque towns.  The people are so far ahead of the progressive curve, they are an island of enlightenment that one hopes will eventually be emulated far and wide.  It was a joy to be among them.  They are keeping alive so many of the values we tried to live by at Hunga Dunga and at other communes during the 60’s and 70’s.

I arrived in Guerneville a few days before the reading took place.  Friends took me on tours of the area.  The redwoods were spectacular.  The people were among the kindest I’ve encountered.  But I found in Forestville the most impressive sight of all.  It was the beautifully designed building that housed the Food for Thought food bank, established to serve those with HIV/AIDS, but asks no questions of anyone in need of food.

Food for Thought is not much different from a very upscale, organic supermarket, except the building virtually levitates from the compassion and selflessness which abounds within its walls and in their own meticulously tended organic garden outside.  That, and of course, everything is FREE!

At the reading, I chose excerpts from my book that talked about communal living and the intercommunal network in San Francisco during the heyday of hippiedom.  Hunga Dunga was in charge of the Free Food Conspiracy, delivering the finest in organic produce to other communes, and what was left over to Churches and Missions.

That beautiful era began to witness individuals who opted for personal gain rather than to keep the faith.  They fell prey to the temptations that greed and personal aggrandizement offered, as if profit would equal happiness.

The Free Food Conspiracy morphed into what today is the transnational company known as Greenleaf Produce.  It was, to me, the most blatant indicator that the world would not yet be governed by the peace and love we yearned for, but rather by for-profit (and only profit) corporations.  The world would not yet be ready to bring in the Aquarian Age.  The collective consciousness had only been temporarily expanded, and soon would be shrunk by our capitalistic market mentality of survival of the fittest, rather than survival of all humankind and the environment.

There were and there are exceptions.  Many, many people had already experienced beyond a shadow of a doubt, the connectedness of all beings.  And they continued to live their lives, as best they could, according to that tenet.  Here, in this little bookstore, in attendance at my reading, were many of those same people.

I looked up from my book and made a quick survey of the faces staring at me.  Waves of love, tears, and laughter crashed over me.  I felt my eyes begin to water.  I put the book down and just began to talk to these brothers and sisters, seemingly so rapt with my stories.  I needed to tell them that I felt as if I had come home.  I needed to tell them that here, in the countryside of the Russian River, I had found a place where peace and love were guiding, if not the planet, if not the country, at least a little piece of earth.

And the food bank, Food for Thought, is the place where it is most evident.  It is the place where the connectness of all beings is not a philosophical discussion.  It is a place where the truth of it is actualized.  It is a place that accomplishes what we had hoped the Free Food Conspiracy would.  So in the truest sense of the phrase, things have come full circle.

The original mission of the Free Food Conspiracy did not die after all, but was resurrected decades later by Food for Thought, a fantastic model for food banks everywhere, but in no way a fantasy.  It is compassionate thought made manifest through the hard and diligent work of many volunteers.   May the circle be unbroken!

Note: When a Food for Thought manager noticed a Greenleaf Produce truck in the area, she called the company.  A sales rep came out to take a tour of this beautiful place, and when the rep was asked if Greenleaf would like to join the many farmers, markets, and restaurants that donate food, she simply handed the Food for Thought manager a price list with the admonition that more than likely the food bank would never be able to afford them.  Ironic and sad, eh?  But it does give one food for thought!

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13 thoughts on “Full Circle: Food for Thought

    1. The Unapologetic Hippie Post author

      Very interesting article. Thank you. I wish I knew who authored it and in places it used very ambiguous terms, like “helping” to distribute free food. Nevertheless, I found it interesting that the Diggers find their roots in old England. No one can deny their spreading the gospel of FREE. No one can deny they sort of petered out by 1972. No one can deny that people who hung out with the Diggers migrated to other communes and brought FREE with them. No one can deny the Friends of Perfection’s contribution to the counterculture. And no one can deny that Hunga Dunga was the primary engine running the Free Food Conspiracy from circa 1972 until Lizzie turned the Free Food Conspiracy into a capitalist venture, at which time many Hunga Dungans left and started a separate family. Curious that the ones who left were the ones who first started Hunga Dunga years before.

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  1. Eric

    Phil, Sorry if my story doesn’t exactly jibe with your explanation. But it’s how the name “Greenleaf” was invented. And we didn’t call ourselves Free Food Conspiracy, it was Free Food Family. Everything we were involved in was an offshoot of the Digger movement. If you’d like more of the history, you might check out the old Kaliflower articles or the digger archives. Salud!

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    1. The Unapologetic Hippie Post author

      Hi Eric! I am sure we are brothers cut from the same cloth and I certainly wouldn’t want the origin of “Greenleaf” to wrinkle the fabric. The mention of the Diggers and Free Food Family did ring a bell. They both preceded Friends of Perfection and Hunga Dunga. We may simply have a difference in the time line. It is possible that this person Bry (whom I don’t know) and Paula and Joseph (who I did know, especially Paula) helped migrate the idea of a Free Food service and possibly even the name. I do not doubt you. Great minds think alike and these were the days of magic. There was lots of sharing and overlap among communes in the inter communal network. Little Richard and Lizzie are dead now, as are most of my fellow communards. But I know for certain that Hunga Dunga had the wholesale grocery license and we ran the Free Food Conspiracy. I know because I helped buy and deliver the food! I am going to insert a pic into the original article I wrote. Look for it! I am in possession of every article Kaliflower ever published. If I have time, I will try to research this, though it does not warrant such importance in my mind. More important was the intent of all these activities… to model a new way of living devoid of greed and emblematic of love and compassion. I hope perhaps we can meet one day and share stories. Namaste!

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  2. The Unapologetic Hippie Post author

    Hi Eric! (do we know each other?) My book Hunga Dunga, Confessions of an Unapologetic Hippie, documents that golden age of hippiedom and though published as a novel, is pretty much factual to the extent I used real names (with permission, of course.) The inter communal network was guided a lot by the Friends of Perfection commune (Kaliflower,) but distinct activities were delegated to different communes. The Good Dog commune repaired VW’s, Friends of Perfection made bread, were community activists, published Kaliflower, a magazine whose importance cannot be denied. But the distinction of buying and distributing organic food to the communes involved, went to Hunga Dunga. (read my replies to Debby above, who became involved in Greenleaf in its latter iterations. Debby speaks about Greenleaf of the 80’s… I speak of Greenleaf aka Free Food Conspiracy at its very beginnings in the early 70’s when Little Richard and Lizzie went to apply for a wholesale grocery license so we could cash food stamps before even buying food (very illegal, but what the hey) they decided to use the name “Greenleaf,” because it sounded more mainstream. My story starts in 1969 and ends in 1976, and for me to discuss anything after those years is not in my domain. I did love your version of the story of how Greenleaf got its name and I hope I have not dashed your personal history. Though specific facts may differ, none of us can deny that the roots of Greenleaf are based in love and compassion and the interconnectedness of all.

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  3. Eric

    Hi, Phil. The story of how the name “Greenleaf” was invented is a good one. Bry (from a Sutter Street commune) and Paula and Joseph (from the Kaliflower commune) went to the Sumitomo Bank in Japantown to set up an account for the Free Food Family (the group of communes that had decided to pool all their food stamps in order to communalize their food buying along the principle of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”). The three intrepid communards weren’t sure what name to use and were debating it until the last moment. Bry wanted to use “Big Basket” (with all its gay subculture connotations) but Paula thought of “Greenleaf” and all three were nervous that the bank wouldn’t even allow them to set up an account to cash food stamps since they looked like bedraggled hippies. They still hadn’t decided when the bank manager asked what their food conspiracy was named. There was a long pause until Joseph blurted out, “Greenleaf.” And that’s how history is made.

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  4. Phil Polizatto

    It’s true, Josh. The thoughts of love are immeasurable, but the feeling of them is overwhelming. No amount of money could ever be traded for them. I do believe it is contagious, so always be around people whose thoughts are loving. Perhaps we can “infect” enough people to make real change.

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  5. Josh

    Hey Phil,

    Russian River area sounds great.

    The corporate robots are still controlled by people with souls. The problem is that the people have forgotten the value of their soul, and the connection they have with other souls.

    When reading the history of the United States of America, I came across an interesting topic that when the colonies were allowed to make their own currency outside the Bank of England there was no unemployment and no poor houses. After the Bank of England forced the colonies to use their system, unemployment shot up, and many people became slaves to debt.

    It seems the currency of Food for Thought is thoughts of love. It can’t be measured with a scale or counted in a ledger, but people can feel it. How much money would you trade for thoughts of love?

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  6. Phil Polizatto

    Yeah… tell me all about that Submit button! Like Send on email, it can get you into trouble!

    I think we are saying the same things, Debby. We are just talking about different time periods. And I trust Greenleaf was most generous during that horrible period when so many needed help and they (back then!) would never have refused to give food to a foodbank. I did not know they also supported the community of Twisp. Could you expand on that? Tell me in what ways?

    And I know there are many generous modern day corporations who contribute to the foodbank. As well as the managers of Food for Thought being able to discriminate between the old Greenleaf and the present day Greenleaf.

    The anecdote about (present day) Greenleaf presenting Food for Thought with a price list comes first hand to me from one of their managers.

    Keep in mind once again, that Hunga Dunga ends in 1976. Perhaps an epilogue should be in the works to explain what happened to everyone after that date, but I did not want my story to go beyond what I think is basically the golden era of the flower child.

    If anyone who has read Hunga Dunga in its entirety wants to know what happened to certain characters, I would be glad to discuss it in a less public forum, because as you know, it involves some very delicate issues, despite the fact that Hunga Dunga is a NOVEL. It is based to the larger extent on true events, but it is a NOVEL nonetheless which tries to capture as accurately and detailed as possible the essence of those magical times.

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  7. Debby

    Dang, once you push that little submit button, there’s no editing back. In re-reading I see that yes, we are full circle as you originally stated! I’m pretty sure the foodbank manager knows the difference in the “Greenleafs” and she also knows that plenty of modern day corporations generously contribute to the foodbank.

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  8. Debby

    Vindication isn’t necessary. The original Greenleaf were the same people, continued consciousness, which benefited a MUCH larger community…including Twisp. A dying man sold his company 16 years ago. The “altruism of the Free Food Conspiracy” died then. That original Greenleaf Produce was heart and soul into the work of AIDS on the ground level and would not be a company that turned away an opportunity to support a foodbank. The more I think about it, what you are claiming as opposite, I am claiming is the same. The spirit of Greenleaf and Food for Thought are the same based on my actual experience of both.

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  9. Phil Polizatto

    You vindicate to some extent the role of Greenleaf Produce, but the key words are “back in the day.” Back in the day, Greenleaf Produce was the legal name on the wholesale grocery license the Free Food Conspiracy used to purchase food wholesale for later distribution to the other communes.

    Therefore, it was an easy transition to use the name Greenleaf when it was transitioning to a completely “for profit” company. Everything is a continuum, and during the early days of the transition, many of the values of the Free Food Conspiracy may have influenced the business model and activities of Greenleaf. But eventually, the transition was complete and it did become a corporation in the modern sense of the word, leaving behind most, if not all, of the altruism of the Free Food Conspiracy.

    The fact that when asked to donate food, Greenleaf presented Food for Thought a price list is indicative the transition to a traditional corporation was complete.

    Thank you for pointing out the positive contributions of Greenleaf in its earlier stages. And starting with your sentence “Ironic…” you describe the “circle” so very well. You are an excellent writer.

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  10. Debby

    Very interesting! Hunga Dunga and the Free Food Conspiracy and Greenleaf Produce were all also instrumental in the organic and nouvelle vegetable movement. They educated chefs and farmers about healthier growing methods and even helped write the organic food code for the state of California. Greenleaf back in the day certainly wasn’t run like other companies, but worked together like a committed community. I think they generously gave back to their greater community, too, during the very difficult and heartbreaking 1980’s. Ironic that AIDS brought the end of Greenleaf and the creation of the food bank. To me those threads of compassion are intricately interwoven and still pulsing at our inner cores.

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