An Opportunity For a Safe Charitable Food Service Program?

Well, I agree with the Mayor when she states:

“This is exactly how the process should work,” said Mayor Parker.  “We identify a problem, put an idea out there to address it and then listen to find out if it is the best we can do.  In this instance, we have received a number of reasonable suggestions so I am recommending incorporating some of those suggestions, taking a step back and listening some more.  I am certain that by working together a good product can be crafted.”

According to the newest draft of the Charitable Food Service ordinance, it is using private property without written permission that is criminalized.

The new draft prohibits any charitable food service on both public and private property without the written permission of the owner.  Organizations that fail to obtain written permission may be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $500.

Aren’t there trespassing misdemeanors already in the books? And if this law only pertains to charitable food service, then why not begin with a civil penalty, then elevate it to a misdemeanor at the second violation? But if this is all about private property rights, then I would think that the property owner has every right to drive anyone off of their property utilizing what is on the books, no?

As far as the food service component is concerned:

The voluntary component of the draft ordinance would create the Charitable Food Service Provider Program.  This was prompted by the organizations that indicated their desire to coordinate services, but without concerns about red tape.  Organizations desiring to participate in the voluntary Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider Program will be required to:

  • Register basic contact information with the City of Houston
  • Cooperate with the City in scheduling any food service event at which five or more individuals will be fed
  • Follow basic hygiene, sanitation, and food safety rules provided by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services
  • Have at least one person at each food service site who has completed the free training in sanitary food preparation offered by HDHHS
  • Authorize inspections by the HDHHS of their kitchens, transport vehicles and the like
  • Implement changes suggested by the Health Department
  • Clean up after the event

There’s no doubt that this has been cleaned up by the Mayor, but the voluntary aspect of it makes one wonder why it would be needed. Still, I think some regulation is good as far as food safety goes; however, setting times and locations still seems a bit much. Charity should be allowed anytime and anywhere, but that’s just the Liberal in me.

I do commend the Mayor for taking seriously the views of others beyond the organizations and City Hall insiders who supported and defended the original version.

The Chron has more.

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