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Kansas City Health Officials Bleached Food Meant for the Homeless; Volunteers Came Back with More

How is bleaching food better than letting homeless people eat it?

Petr Tkachenko/Dreamstime.comPetr Tkachenko/Dreamstime.comThe Kansas City Health Department hasn't made it easy for Free Hot Soup. The group's volunteers showed up at four locations November 4 to serve food to the homeless. But city officials had been monitoring the group's social media posts, and they knew where to go to try to stop the sharing. The Kansas City Star reports that chili, sandwiches, and soup "were dumped in bags and soaked in bleach to make sure no one went back to try to recover it."

According to the health department and Mayor James Sly, the issue is food safety: Free Hot Soup doesn't have a permit to feed the homeless, so the city hasn't been able to check whether the food is safe to eat. Plus, the group allegedly didn't keep the food at the right temperature.

Obtaining the correct permit is free for groups that don't charge for food. But it's not that simple. According to the Star, Kansas City Director of Health Rex Archer

said the city can't allow food to be served publicly without affirming that the preparers are trained in safe food management, proper temperature controls and other defenses against contamination, and have an inspected kitchen.

Free Hot Soup's food comes from volunteers who choose to help out when they can, and there's no feasible way for the group to ensure that every kitchen where food might be prepared has been inspected.

The organization operates its events as potluck meals among friends, and thus argues it doesn't need a permit. "We don't have to have a permit to go have a birthday party in the park with our family and friends," one of the group's leaders, Rachelle Burnett, points out to WDAF. "Why would we have to have a permit to come here and have a picnic with our friends in the park?"

"It's our right of freedom of association and freedom of speech," says Amy Bell, an attorney helping the group. "And for many people here, it's a freedom of religion issue...that their religion dictates that they come and share their food and help the needy," she tells KSHB.

Over this past week, health department officials and Free Hot Soup volunteers met in an attempt to find a solution. It's unclear whether they came up with anything, though the volunteers weren't bothered yesterday when they resumed giving out food in at least three locations.

It wasn't a total win, though. Burnett tells KSHB that at her location, volunteers shifted away from hot meals in favor of less healthy prepackaged foods.

Kansas City is far from the only jurisdiction to infringe on people's right to feed the homeless. Reason has documented many such cases, including one in 2014 where two ministers and a 90-year-old activist were arrested for feeding Fort Lauderdale's homeless. In January 2017, Tampa police were caught on video arresting several members of Foods Not Bombs, a group that seeks to end both poverty and war. Their crime: serving hot meals without a permit.

In August, a federal court ruled that Food Not Bombs' weekly food-sharing events in Fort Lauderdale are constitutionally protected "expressive conduct" under the First Amendment. By organizing those events, wrote Judge Adalberto Jordan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, the group was trying to make a political point: that money spent on war should be used to end poverty instead. That ruling was a win, but as lawyer and food policy expert Baylen Linnekin has explained in Reason, many cities across the country still have bans in place preventing people from feeding the homeless.

These bans, of course, are discriminatory and unconstitutional—and they're just bad policy, too. It's hard to imagine how more food for those stuck on the streets can be a bad thing. It's even harder to understand how bleaching food is better than letting homeless people eat it.

Correction: This post previously referred to St. Lauderdale rather than Fort Lauderdale.

Photo Credit: Petr Tkachenko/Dreamstime.com

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  • DesigNate||

    I wonder if some enterprising person has thought to compile a database of all these politicians that are so concerned with public health. Maybe it's just the stories y'all report on, but it seems like the vast majority of the mayors/city council members/etc. are Democrats, but I don't want to over generalize.

  • Zeb||

    This is just a hunch, but I suspect that local government types tend to have a special kind of petty authoritarianism that transcends partisan politics.

  • NashTiger||

    No, its Democrats

  • Oli||

    It doesn't fucking matter. It's politics. Sure, Democrats love their nonsensical regulations, but Republicans love their brutal police. Give people power over others, and they will subjugate them. There's the main problem. Even if there was a party that 100% represents your own political views, it wouldn't stay that way for long.

  • ThomasD||

    " Democrats love their nonsensical regulations, but Republicans love their brutal police."

    Stupid stereotypes are stupid.

    The people responsible for this "nonsensical regulation" are not concerned about public food safety so much as they are concerned about public nuisance.

    Feeding the homeless being likely to attract the homeless.

    They like the fact that people like you are willing to characterize them as 'misguided do-gooders' because it provides cover for what they are really doing.

  • Oli||

    I have no idea how you deducted I'd think of politicians as "do-gooders", misguided or otherwise.

  • Robert||

    Right. This is why birthday parties aren't targeted. Bums are.

  • CGN||

    Good comment, Zeb, but having worked with government types (ICE, FDA, DOC, etc. I can ABSOLUTELY confirm that petty authoritarianism is EXACTLY why this kind of shit happens. RARE is the government official of ANY kind or level who isn't a petty shit.

  • JFree||

    Of course you want to overgeneralize. You're a partisan hack so the assertion that those pols have the 'other' party label is simply an attempt to pretend that those with an R after their name are wiser re homeless stuff. While making sure that the R's never have to actually do anything different at all. Just having the R on their jackboot is enough

  • JesseAz||

    Going by party of mayor as a pretty good indicator of overall city government affiliation...

    link... He guess right.

    Maybe it's because the Dems use city money to pay for liberal groups to "solve" homeless with a nice political kick back to the politicians... See San Francisco and Seattle who spend tens of millions a year on the problem.

  • JesseAz||

  • JFree||

    So what do R's actually do re the homeless? How is what they do better than the D's? Or are they both just full of shit - but you prefer the taste of the R shit?

  • JesseAz||

    They let non governmental agencies provide for them. Are you ignorant of church based shelters or groups like the one in this article? Wow you're dumb.

  • JFree||

    Well you're wrong. The fact is that they mostly arrest the homeless - just like the Dems. The largest city with a R mayor (San Diego) set up big tents (yes - run by nonprofits) in order to 'reduce the homeless count' (people in the tents are ignored by the count). They threaten to arrest the homeless in order to get them to go to the tents. And when their time in the tent runs out, they head right back to the streets - with the new place filled by another homeless person threatened with arrest or hassled.

    Hell of a fucking solution there. But hey - at least the non-profits don't have to run around looking for homeless to help. They get delivered to them.

  • Raspberry243||

    "Or are they both just full of shit - but you prefer the taste of the R shit?"

    This is a perfect summation of the Reason comment section.....

  • hive of scum||

    Make comments great again!

  • Crafty Boomer||

    what the libertarians fail to understand about gov't is that the gov't workers have great jobs ...and they want those jobs to be more secure...so they INVENT more work for themselves...they do that by increasing the number of restrictions, regulations, etc that we all have to live under...

    and don't even bother to try to correct me...for one I AM a gov't worker, and secondly, I have been following the libertarian movement for many decades...

  • Billy Bones||

    You are 100% correct, except that you failed to mention one other aspect...After creating that extra work for themselves. they complain that they can get nothing done because there is just too much work to do.

  • No Time for Fishing||

    Which naturally means they need to hire more bureaucrats and thus their friends can have great government jobs as well and more bureaucrats means more managers so they can get promoted. Any problem they fail to solve only needs more money, resources and people for success to finally be achieved. And government grows and grows. Magic like.

  • ThomasD||

    The bureaucracy inevitably expands to meet the needs of an expanding bureaucracy.

  • DesigNate||

    I don't think there is a single libertarian who doesn't get the perverse incentives government workers have to justify their jobs.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    *except those confused beings who identify as "left leaning libertarians"

  • Remember to keep it all polit||

    This is just ordinary bureaucratic growth. The only reason businesses aren't as bad is that they have investors to watch how their money is wasted, and a market to bankrupt them if the investors are asleep at the switch.

  • Chipper Jones||

    It's too bad Josef Stalin isn't alive to see this. He would be so proud.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    To be fair, many of Stalin's worst policies are used by Democrats and Socialists everywhere.

  • Zeb||

    I'm curious which policies you have in mind there.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Are you serious?

    Gulags:FDR internment of Japanese-Americans or European Ghettos
    NKVD counting votes and stealing elections:Lefty operatives counting votes and stealing elections
    NKVD militarized police force:Militarized police forces
    ....

  • CGN||

    Are you kidding me?!?, Zeb? Did you graduate high school? If you can't see the connection between Stalin and Socialists (I would NOT include Democrats here) you need to go back to school.

  • Dillinger||

    how's the KC mob gonna get paid if the city government isn't collecting on free food for homeless?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Government needs more people on welfare and food stamps rolls not less.

    Private charity is more unsafe than people starving. This is what lefties push.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Can you imagine the rush that comes from destroying food intended to feed the homeless? What if the homeless people were there to actually watch it happen? Their sunken eyes and weathered faces agape as perfectly good food is hopelessly poisoned by people who will swing by Arby's on the way home from work. The cops' boners may never wither after that.

  • sarcasmic||

    It's kinda like beating them to death, only slower.

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    I was thinking the same thing. The righteous cruelty is just astonishing.

    "I know you're hungry, but you have to understand we're doing you a favor here." Fucking assholes.

  • perlchpr||

    I don't normally come right out and advocate violence against government fucktards, but in this case, I can see where someone else might feel inclined to do so. Seriously. Those people probably deserve to be shot like rabid dogs.

    "But we're just enforcing TEH LAWZ!" "Fuck you. Die."

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    I think if they were found having consumed some of that bleach soaked food, a case might be made that they had to taste test it to see if the bleach was potent enough.

  • CGN||

    No, perichpr, rabid dogs deserve better than government fucktards.

  • perlchpr||

    It would be a tragedy if all those food ruining people ended up drinking a lot of bleach and dying in screaming agony. A terrible, terrible tragedy.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Damn any government that makes me nod in agreement with Hugh.

  • Ron||

    and government wonders why we don't trust them. but here again teh government does not like competition

  • Ron||

    their Attorneys argue freedom of speech and freedom of association but they forgot freedom to not have our food stolen from our guest and freedom from starving to death.

  • Fats of Fury||

    You know who else said "No Soup For You!" ?

  • Sheriff Bart||

    Gordon Ramsey?

  • JFree||

    Andy Warhol?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Chef Boyardee?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Gloria Steinem?

  • Dace Highlander||

    The Earl of Sandwhich?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    My narrow white ass this is about food safety.

  • Maven Houlihan||

    Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

    -- C.S. Lewis

  • I'm Not Sure||

    "It's hard to imagine how more food for those stuck on the streets can be a bad thing. It's even harder to understand how bleaching food is better than letting homeless people eat it."

    It's not that hard. We can't have people getting the idea that they can manage things without government involvement and oversight, now can we?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Think of what would happen if the starving people got a mild case of food poisoning? Why, the might waste away to nothing!

  • CDRSchafer||

    You laugh, but if they do and die, who will get the blame? Won't be the do gooders. It will be the government, for not enforcing the health code.

  • Agammamon||

    It's hard to imagine how more food for those stuck on the streets can be a bad thing.

    San Francisco?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...the volunteers weren't bothered yesterday when they resumed giving out food in at least three locations.

    A combination of intense public backlash and potential lawsuit which the city wasn't going to win might have had an impact.

  • Ama-Gi Anarchist||

    Having been homeless at one point myself (and I'm talking living in a tent alongside the railroad tracks), I'm surprised there hasn't been violence from this occurring. There are some bugfuck nutters that are homeless and they will gut you as soon as look at you in some cases.....

  • ThomasD||

    Even the truly crazy ones learn quickly not to mess with the 'government assistance' people.

  • CGN||

    Stop lying, Ama-Gi Anarchist. You've never been homeless, you just want to push GOVERNMENT POWER at every step because it benefits you. STFU, loser.

  • Bobster0||

    Sure sure...it's all "evil government" until a homeless guy gets sick from eating non-government approved food. He could lose his job and not be able to pay his rent or mortgage!...

    oh wait...

    never mind.

  • CGN||

    Do you know ANYTHING about homeless people, Bobster0?!!? You talk like a govt. worker who wants to defend every idiotic and harmful law so you can look good to your boss. Go away, liar, until you have a CLUE what being homeless is about.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "How is bleaching food better than letting homeless people eat it?"

    Solving problems without government help isn't allowed. Makes the government employees who are supposed to solve the problem look bad.

  • kevinq||

    America....
    Home of the free*
    * some restrictions may apply
    * permit or license may be required
    * subject to change without notice.

  • Dace Highlander||

    (Slow Clap)

  • Echospinner||

    Bleaching of discarded food now good idea says Health Department.

  • CGN||

    Nira0101 is a lying thief, hoping you'll buy her SHIT opinions on how to make one's life better. Her "testimony" is so blatantly crooked I can't believe ANYONE would believe her nonsense. Reason.com : you have the power to kick the above liar and scammer off your site and you damn well ought to do that asap.

    Regards,
    Soon to be former subscriber if you don't start getting back to your roots of NOT enabling cooked vendors, politicians, etc.

  • CGN||

    Bessie54 is a lying scammer. Kelly R. (a made up person) can make $72,000 per year by working at home?!!? What total bullshit. Reason, here is another crook to get off of your site.

  • CGN||

    Yet more proof, as if it was needed, that government fucks EVERYTHING up. It is better for the homeless to STARVE than be given "unapproved" food?!!?? REALLY? CUT GOVERNMENT POWER AND AUTHORITY AT ALL LEVELS AT LEAST BY HALF!!!

  • ThomasD||

    That picture reminds me that

    A. I'm hungry

    B. I probably need a haircut.

  • Gasman||

    The regulatory establishment must regulate or wither. It does not care about actual wellbeing of the population.

  • Matt L||

    "It's even harder to understand how bleaching food is better than letting homeless people eat it"

    Maybe it's because I worked in government in the past, but it's really not that hard to understand. I'm probably biased, but I refute the generalization that government is populated exclusively by tiny wannabe dictators. Many government employees genuinely believe that the rules they set and enforce make the community safer. If anything, they suffer from narcissism - an inability to accept that the community, in many instances, could probably get by just fine without them. That's what I see happening here. Food poisoning happens, even when the food is prepared and served by people trained in safe food handling. If the food is tainted, then pouring bleach on it probably is better than letting homeless people eat it. The government employees see themselves as fulfilling the vital function of protecting people from that risk, without considering that making it harder for homeless people to get food probably creates even bigger risks.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Laws are laws. If we allow people to waive them whenever it seems like a good idea, government becomes arbitrary.
    I love how people who believe government is the answer to all problems, get upset when a law doesn't work as they think it should. By their very nature, laws are difficult to write and even more difficult to implement and enforce. They are not a magic wand.

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