Set up at entrances to festivals like Vertex or Electric Forest and concerts by the String Cheese Incident and STS9 is a booth from Conscious Alliance, a Boulder-based hunger-relief program that serves meals across the country through its Art That Feeds program. In exchange for a donation of non-perishable food items or money, concert-goers receive a limited-edition concert poster donated by an artist.
Conscious Alliance held its first food drive at a String Cheese Incident concert in 2002. What began as an idea by Justin Baker, an intern at Madison House at the time, has turned into a national nonprofit that has collected 2 million meals.
“The first drive brought in 4,000 pounds of food,” says executive director Justin Levy. “The next drive, 8,000 pounds. [Since then], we have created a network that has been so good to us, and [we're] now working with a lot of bands and a lot of artists. [It has been] a ripple effect.”
Since 2002, more bands have invited Conscious Alliance to their concerts, including Phish, Jack Johnson, Mumford and Sons and Big Gigantic. Over 50,000 meals were donated through the Art That Feeds food drives during summer 2016 alone.
Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident (left) and executive director of Conscious Alliance Justin Levy tally up donated meals at Electric Forest 2016.
Donations from each drive are distributed to Feeding America food-bank affiliates in whatever city the concert is taking place. The money raised is used to purchase and deliver food to Indian reservations across the U.S., primarily the Pine Ridge and Lame Deer reservations.
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Art That Feeds recently hosted a drum clinic at the Pine Ridge Reservation taught by elders in the community. The clinic taught kids in grades four through eight how to build frames for their own hand drums and how to play traditional songs.
Cameron Shook, an intern at Endit! Management, has volunteered with Conscious Alliance and appreciates that it brings together some of his favorite bands and giving back to the community. “Between being at events I would have been at either way and providing a way to help communities outside the live-music world, [Art that Feeds] provides a win-win for concert-goers as well as people in need,” he says.