KC Council vote on ‘food sharing’ permit to help the homeless is delayed

06/05/2014 5:52 PM

06/05/2014 8:52 PM

The Kansas City Council has postponed until June 12 a vote on a new “food sharing” permit for organizations that go to parks and other venues to feed the homeless.

The measure is designed to ensure that food delivered to the homeless is safe and to address neighborhood concerns about homeless camps.

But some people have perceived it as an effort to limit help to the homeless, which advocates of the new rule staunchly denied.

A council vote was expected Thursday, but Councilman Scott Wagner, a prime sponsor of the measure, agreed to postpone the decision until next week to allow for more testimony and to clear up misperceptions.

If adopted, the new rule would not take effect until Nov. 1.

“This gives us an ample opportunity to talk to individuals and organizations and bring them into compliance,” Wagner said.

Advocates of the new permit said well-meaning organizations go to parks and other locations to distribute food, frequently on the weekends, often leaving a mess of trash behind and no guarantee that the food is safe.

Wagner said any group serving food to the homeless is covered by the city’s food code requirements. But currently the city has a dozen food service permits that don’t specifically mention food sharing, and all have a cost. This would create a new, free “food sharing” permit that clarifies how these groups can comply with the food code.

Food would have to be prepared in an inspected kitchen, labeled with the organization’s name and be disposed of within four hours after removal from temperature control. The organization would have to provide sufficient trash receptacles to deal with neighborhood dumping complaints.

Wagner said the new rule does not tell groups they can’t feed the homeless and does not compel organizations to get individual food-handler cards. It does provide for the Homeless Services Coalition to convene three nonrequired workshops per year on how best to serve the homeless.

Councilwoman Jan Marcason argued in favor of the measure, saying that too often groups just hand out a meal and don’t really help the homeless change their lives. She said the goal should be to “end homelessness, not manage homeless people.”

But some homeless people protested at City Hall this week that this would make it harder for them to get fed. Councilman Michael Brooks said those affected by the rule should at least have one more opportunity to testify before the final council vote.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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