Across the country regulations put on the distribution of food in public, called food-sharing laws, have made it illegal for religious and charitable organizations to feed the homeless.
Rick Wood, a pastor at The Lord’s House of Prayer in Oneota, Alabama, has been driving around Birmingham every other Saturday for about the last six years. In his truck he has plastered the bible verse from Matthew chapter 25 – “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Pastor Wood believes hole heartedly in what Jesus Christ said, in that “whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” but one Saturday he was informed that he could no longer distribute the bottles of water and over a hundred hotdogs he had brought to feed Birmingham’s hungry brothers and sisters on account of a new law the city passed relating to food trucks and food sharing laws making feeding the homeless a crime.
The ordinace passed by the city stated that no person or business entity, including religious or charitable organizations, can operate a food truck or service without a permit. A permit which could cost Pastor Wood up to $500 from the health department.
In Raleigh, N. Carolina, Rev. Hugh Hollowell, pastor of Love Wins Ministries came to Moore Square as he does every Saturday and Sunday at 9am for the last six years to hand out coffee and breakfast sandwiches to the 70 hungry people lined up at the park. Rev. Hollowell says he “kept this promise to the community,” because there were no places for the homeless to get a meal on the weekends.
On Aug. 24 three Raleigh police officers approached the pastor and informed him that it was illegal to share food with these people in the park. When Rev. Hollowell responded that he had been performing this service every weekend for six years, the officers told him that he needed an $800 permit to rent the park, or he would go to jail if he continued.
Atlanta, Pheonix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and over 50 more major cities have banned public feeding with ‘anti-camping’ and ‘anti-food’ sharing laws, according to a report by USA Today.
Lawsuits have popped up all over the country between support groups for the homeless and cities passing these laws discerning where one adult is allowed to give away food to another adult. City leaders maintain that the laws are enacted to promote programs already in place for the homeless and at risk, suggesting that it is more dignified for a hungry person to sit down and have a meal inside, rather than handed out a sandwich.
Charities and religious organizations urge citizens to reach out to their local governments to gain the God-given right to feed their fellow man. The real crime in these food-sharing laws that make feeding the hungry illegal, is allowing the homeless to go hungry when there are people attempting to help.
Opinion by Cody Long