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Group Can't Serve Hot Food To Homeless Without Permit, Says STL Health Dept.

Categories: News

Angela Valdes
In St. Louis, it's completely legal to tailgate or barbecue without a permit. Not so with feeding the homeless.

Churches on the Street is a mobile ministry that has been serving home-cooked meals to the city's homeless population for around a year.

Group members were notified Monday by the city's health department that they can only serve prepackaged food -- that is, unless they pony up the cash for a permit and follow department guidelines for food preparation.

"It's open to the public, so anything open to the public falls under the food code," says St. Louis' health director Pam Walker. "They were bringing the food in their cars and setting it up outside. There's a lot of potential there for food to go bad, and homeless people have a right to not suffer from food poisoning."

See also: Homelessness In St. Louis: Solutions Exist, But Hearings Will Determine Future Of Shelter

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Angela Valdes

Walker says the fact that the event is held on private property doesn't matter, because the service is open to the public.Tailgating at a Rams game or barbecuing in your back yard, on the other hand, does not qualify as a public distribution of food and does not need a permit.

A temporary permit costs $50 per event, while annual fees can run between $150 and $300.

"If I want to cook and poison my own family and friends that's OK, but when you're open to the public that's implying a certain standard of safety," Walker says. "That's the standard we have in place for all the homeless shelters in the city."

Though the ministry has spent much the past year holding religious and meal services at the same location on the riverfront, last week's Monday night meal received front-page treatment by the Post Dispatch. Apparently, the health department officials also read the paper. They did not like what they saw.

In the photos that accompany the Post Dispatch's followup story, large steaming pots appear to be simply resting on folding tables. Hot food with temperatures below 140 degrees has a high risk of bacteria growth.

Angela Valdes, one of the organizers for Churches on the Streets, tells Daily RFT that the group was working under the assumption that serving hot food on private property was legal without a permit.

"We don't blame the city; we want to make sure we are obeying the law," she says, adding that the group will still be serving food on Monday nights, but only prepackaged food from now on. Volunteers will also make further efforts to go out into the city's parks and streets to distribute food to homeless individuals.

"We got comfortable at the camp. We are Churches on the Streets. We want to get back out onto the street."

Those interested in donating food or volunteering can contact the group through its Facebook page, or by e-mailing Valdes at angelacvaldes@gmail.com.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com


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52 comments
Peckj
Peckj

Churches on the Streets were not aware that serving hot food was not acceptable on private property or we would not have done so. We agree that we're to abide by the laws of the land and now that we are enlightened, we will not serve hot food. We are in communication with the health department and we're getting things in order accordingly IF we decide to continue serving hot meals. However, when we were, we had two certified food service managers taking care of the food that would have met health codes, food was kept at appropriate temps by professional catering supplies, they have their Hep shots and all required. Those homeless as well as volunteers were able to sanitize their hands and servers wore gloves. We served some of the most delicious food by local caterers donating their time. We will continue to help those on the streets with other practical resources, hope, encouragement and plugging them into needed resources to get them off the streets.

rrchapman
rrchapman

Does the Old Cathedral undergo these inspections before mass. Or Christ Church Cathedral before the Eucharist? How is this any different?

Rose Merritt Stanley
Rose Merritt Stanley

It is the churches fundamental right and duty to provide for the poor and destitute. Seriously. :(

Timothy McGarity
Timothy McGarity

So let me get this straight... You can grill all the food you want and let others eat it but because someone is homeless, they can't have any???

Josh Thoele
Josh Thoele

they cant make money off the homeless

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

We are all just one paycheck from being homeless? Really? Are you sure about that?

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

But these people are doing the Lord's work. Why do you hate baby Jesus?

Jay Binder
Jay Binder

they could set up a bunch of grills and have a kick ass tailgate ...so how many folk do you actually get to have at each spot? I mean do these guys go around rams games and check up on everyone?

Jeffrey Vollmer
Jeffrey Vollmer

Oppose over reaching government at all levels Local, Federal and State.

billco73
billco73

just set up a Rams banner while feeding the homeless- problem solved

Heather Woodside
Heather Woodside

That's not right. It's sad, especially this time of year when it's the season to give.

Sean David Herron
Sean David Herron

...And you wonder why articles on Saint Louis and the state of Missouri have to have such a defensive tone...Jesus, between this story, the murder rate, and the one on the death penalty for pot...but we're getting an IKEA in addition to the two Whole Foods, so it's all good, right?

Keith Giesler
Keith Giesler

My, my. The vitriol against "the man" here, keeping the poor down. Since this was a RFT article, and it looks like a lot of leftists posting, I'll just come right in swinging. They can distribute this food, they just need inspection and permit. Food must be kept colder than 40 degrees or hotter than 140 at all times, or bacteria grows. You can't cut raw meat on a tray, and then use I to tear lettuce or even put the cooked meat back on it. The permit says that these church folks have demonstrated that they have the means to do that. They probably do, yes, but the permit proves they do, and society has put the burden of proving safe-food-handling on the government. About half the people that say they have "the stomach flu" have actually given themselves food poisoning or got it eating out. So you all should slow your roll a bit. (and yes, you are free to kill your own family and neighbors at a backyard bbq or tailgating with food poisoning whenever you want).

Karen Ward
Karen Ward

No permits should be needed to be charitable.

Edward Hecker
Edward Hecker

Another law that needs a little civil disobedience.

Terry Weatherford
Terry Weatherford

Well, get the permit, easy enough. A little cash and a piece of paper. Or use your "tax exempt" status to get around it all some how ;)

Jenni-RomansMommy Gonnella
Jenni-RomansMommy Gonnella

So i dont get the rude comments. if u dont wanna help thats fine thats on you but there is no reason to be against serving the homeless. they are just like us. we are ALL just ONE paycheck away from being homeless.. really sad to c some of the negativity. Churches on the street along with my husband and i have a vision and thats to feed the homeless the word of God and a meal and clothe them not to get glory from others. Glory comes from God :)

Todd Williams
Todd Williams

That's the correct solution Emily. Unfortunately we live in a litigious society so laws are put in place to mitigate that. If other shelters are held to the same standard then this roving shelter kitchen must also stay to those standards.....and as the article states the church spokesperson is in agreement.

Tony63031
Tony63031

Serve them food anyways! Screw what the city says!

Jon Hiltz
Jon Hiltz

Rich people just don't want to see homeless people by their lofts that's it.

Dustin Duke
Dustin Duke

Yes because letting the homeless eat out of dumpsters is much safer than a prepared meal from a volunteer.

Emily Dodd
Emily Dodd

We should donate the cost of the permit and supplies...

Patty Shackelford
Patty Shackelford

So the problem is that it is open to the public? Would invitations to the event make it private?

Chris Ferguson
Chris Ferguson

They would have arrested Scrooge for serving the Christmas Goose

Amber Moser
Amber Moser

That's fucking absurd. What happened to humanity.

Dave Brown
Dave Brown

Thank you City of St. Louis!!! Great decision.

dalediversity
dalediversity topcommenter

Get these pieces of shit off our streets!  

Ed Lomax
Ed Lomax

And..........WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO ABOUT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????? SOOOOO SICK OF THE HIGHER UPS AND THEIR B.S.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

I have a better idea, round up all of the retarded anarchist fucksticks (aka 'libertarians') kick them in the nuts and throw them off the Eads bridge. SO sick of fucking clueless morons thinking the only thing wrong with society is that it is not anything goes. Fucking asshats.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Bullshit. You would be screaming like a bitchy moron if someone tried doing it next door to you you fucking hypocrit twat.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

shut the fuck up you ignorant cunt

babyblue1991
babyblue1991

@Tony63031  we cant do that. we still have to abide by the health code like everyone else


jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

besides the point biker fag

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

you aren't going to do shit except bitch about the evil gubbermint and talk some anarchist bullshit

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