Community service supporters criticize new law requiring training for food distributors
Required permits, trainings may hinder needy food recipients from getting meals
March 26, 2012, 1:33 am·
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health amended regulations of a proposal that requires groups to obtain permits to distribute food in public.
Organizations must obtain city permits, and at least one member is required to undergo two-hour food-safety training that is free of charge from the health department.
One of the main amendments passed last Thursday eliminated the rule requiring groups to use commercially approved kitchens. With the new amendment, food may be prepared in private homes that meet minimum requirements. In addition, instead of providing menus to the city, groups may now just indicate whether the food will be hot or cold.
Another amendment stipulated that at least one trained distributor and permit must be present when food is served. Outdoor sites are required to have temporary hand-washing facilities, and food must be prepared four or fewer hours before serving. Although private kitchens will not be subject to unscheduled inspections, sites and commercial kitchens will.
Department of Public Health spokesperson Jeff Moran said the meeting lasted about three hours.
Communications doctoral student Khadijah White, who was arrested on March 15 at a city protest against the food regulation, opposes the rules.
“While I’m glad that a few of the most onerous measures were not passed, I am still appalled about the mayor’s baseless attack on our city’s poorest citizens,” she said. “The argument that this ban is for the protection of people who need food is fraudulent … there’s no evidence of food-borne illness among the homeless who’ve consumed free food.”
College sophomore Zach Dorsen, external liaison of Alpha Phi Omega — a community service fraternity — also finds the regulation frustrating and makes the process of helping the hungry more difficult.
“The excess of food from many restaurants and other food stores would otherwise go to waste,” he wrote in an email. “Some people may not take the time to undergo the necessary training that this new bill would require to legally donate food, thus creating much unnecessary waste.”