Dozens protest proposed ordinance to regulate food-sharing programs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - More than a dozen homeless people flanked by numerous representatives of non-profit food sharing programs and religious groups stood Wednesday on the steps of City Hall protesting a proposed city ordinance.

Many of the homeless themselves were not mincing words.

"The city once again is picking on the homeless people," said one homeless person.

Another commented, "I can't get no food."

City Ordinance No. 140412 (read the ordinance ) is the heart of the issue. Among other things - a city worker said it would require a food handling card. While handing out food - either 80 percent of the volunteers would need a food handling card - which is free or a manager on site would have a food manager card that costs $50 to obtain.

The ordinance would regulate the food sharing groups by ensuring they have an inspected kitchen and that foods handed out are labeled. It would also ensure that the groups clean up after serving food and don't leave trash behind.

Related: Proposed regulations for feeding homeless in KC met with some ire

The group believes the rules are too strict and said the city is not supporting the efforts of the groups to help the needy.

"Financially, it could impact us a lot. With having to label everything we hand out and the cost of registering those that would be on our vehicles to serve," said Scott Lamaster with "Taking to the Streets." He said they serve nearly 300 homeless people weekly.

"This ordinance they are trying to pass it the wrong type of ordinance. In fact it's going to hurt people and give a bad image to Kansas City," said Jerry Whisler with "Feed the People. "This is a bad ordinance. It needs to be tabled and revised. Come and (talk) with us. That's one thing they have never done. They have never talked with us."

The city believes it a safer and cleaner approach. It would also make sure the groups are clearly stating who they are in case there is any problem associated with a group.

The protestors quietly took a seat to be heard in the Neighborhoods, Housing, and Health Communities sub-committee meeting Wednesday.

The sub-committee passed the ordinance last week and it will be sent to the full council on Thursday.
But after the meeting, the protestors found the Sunshine Law prevented the sub-committee from speaking today. Councilwoman Melba Curls informed the crowd that since discussion of the ordinance was not on the agenda previously sent out, she and her colleagues were precluded from speaking on it in session.

She was cornered with questions afterward.

"Now the city is saying that we can't do this anymore," said one concerned volunteer. Curls responded saying they couldn't speak on the topic in session.

She said the ordinance is simply there to make sure the city knows who's feeding the homeless and that the food is safe.

"The city didn't want to have a danger of anyone getting ill," she said.

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