Opponents battle over new rules for feeding hungry - KCTV5

Opponents battle over new rules for feeding hungry

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

It could become more difficult for the homeless and hungry to get food in Kansas City.

It is part of a city proposed ordinance that is raising a lot of eyebrows. The City Council met Wednesday to try to clear up any misunderstanding and discuss the ordinance with the public, and those on both sides of the issue made their voices heard.

One big misunderstanding the city council said is that people think the proposed ordinance will affect an individual handing food to someone on the street corner. That's not the case.

The proposed ordinance would require volunteers and charities who prepare, store, serve and feed the homeless to get food service training at $25-$50 per session and food-handling permits.

A food-handler permit fee would be waived. Food would need to be prepared in a kitchen with a city permit, not on a site.

"This ordinance makes sure food for the homeless or anyone is safe," said a spokesperson for the Kansas City Health Department.

"When we prepare our food, we know exactly what ingredients are in it. If someone just came up with a pot and started serving it, we wouldn't have any idea what was in it," said Zeola Belcher, who supports the ordinance.

Proponents say it is simply an issue of public health.

"If you're an organization that hands out hundreds of sandwiches, that's an entirely different animal, because we're talking about masses amounts of food going out into a large number of consumers," City Council member Scott Wagner said.

Some organizations think the ordinance will mean extra costs which will hurt churches, food pantry and soup kitchens.

"It is against what God calls on us to do, to share food. I don't believe anyone needs a permit to give you a sandwich," said Bishop Tony Caldwell of Community United KC.

Places like reStart that help feed homeless people, have food permits to serve, but many organizations like churches do not. Churches and charities are worried it puts limitations on them because preparing food on-site would not be allowed nor would meal donations.

"Under this ordinance, you can't give a hot dog to someone or give a sandwich to someone sleeping underneath a bridge. In other words, it is better for them to go eat out of dumpster than for me to go buy something and hand it to them," Caldwell said.

"Is this really about protecting the health of the homeless citizens or is this about legislating a certain type of community standard," said Steven Garrett, who is homeless.

The committee suggested the city pay for the first 50 people taking the training course. Wagner supports the changes. Council member Jermaine Reed does not.

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