Kansas City Health Changes Course on Homeless Picnics
Kansas City health officials allowed a group of volunteers to feed the homeless in parks across the city a week after some health inspectors threw home-cooked chili, sandwiches and soup into trash cans and poured bleach on some of the food.
The inspectors destroyed the food in a city park on Nov. 4, saying the food prepared by Free Hot Soup Kansas City was a health risk because it wasn't prepared in licensed or approved kitchens and inspectors couldn't be sure it was prepared at the proper temperatures, The Kansas City Star reported.
Free Hot Soup Kansas City is a group of volunteers that uses social media to encourage volunteers to provide meals to homeless on Sunday in parks across the Kansas City area. While the health department contends the group needs a permit to operate, advocates disagree, arguing they are just a group of friends who wanted to help people and are not a food establishment.
On Tuesday, health department spokesman Bill Snook said inspectors weren't sent back to the gatherings Sunday because the group said it would bring only prepackaged foods from permitted establishments, rather than home-cooked food.
"The homeless are deserving of the same quality and food preparation as anyone else," Snook said. "That's why we have 43 other organizations that have been permitted to provide that service."
Snook noted the city often waives permit fees and provides free classes for organizations trying to help the homeless.
"We will work with any organization," he said. "Some members of this organization have chosen not to work with the department."
Nellie McCord, a volunteer from Merriam, Kansas, said the effort to help people in need sometimes conflicts with neighborhood concerns about safety. It was that debate and a desire not to further divide the city that inspired volunteers to return to the parks Sunday, McCord said.
"We don't want to be split by economic hardship and racial disparity," she said. "We want to come together. And this is one way we can do it. We can do it over a meal at a park, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon."