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November 29, 2006

Local Government Bans Charitable Meals

by Doug Mataconis

Fairfax County, Virginia has told local churches and charities that they must stop donating prepared food to the counties poor residents unless the food was prepared in a county-approved kitchen:

Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen — be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies — unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.

They said the crackdown on home-cooked meals is aimed at preventing food poisoning among homeless people.

But it is infuriating operators of shelters for the homeless and leaders of a coalition of churches that provides shelter and meals to homeless people during the winter. They said the strict standards for food served in the shelters will make it more difficult to serve healthy, hot meals to homeless people. The enforcement also, they said, makes little sense.

“We’re very aware that a number of homeless people eat out of dumpsters, and mom’s pot roast has got to be healthier than that,” said Jim Brigl, chief executive of Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services. “But that doesn’t meet the code.”

That’s right, Fairfax County is effectively saying that they’d rather have a hungry person eating scraps out the dumpster behind TGI Friday’s than eating something you prepared in your own kitchen. Not surprisingly, local churches and shelters are saying that this will make it much more difficult for them to do their job:

“We see the reason for being certified. They want to ensure people’s health and safety,” said the Rev. Keary Kincannon of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church in the Alexandria portion of Fairfax County, which will open as a hypothermia shelter for four months starting Friday.

“On the other hand, how much do you have to be a stickler with that?” Kincannon asked. “What’s more important: whether we’re open to have somebody get in out of the cold and get a meal? There’s kind of a balance there.”

The Rev. Judy Fender of Burke United Methodist Church said 50 volunteers had been planning to cook beef stew, pork loin and other nutritious meals in the church kitchen when it hosts the hypothermia shelter Dec. 17 through 23.

But she found out this week that, because the kitchen is not Health Department-approved, it will have to prepare its food elsewhere.

It will be a logistical nightmare, Fender predicted, and is an insult to members who have cooked meals for years in the church kitchen without any problems.

“Why do [they] think that the traditional way of fixing a home-cooked meal is going to poison people off the street?” Fender asked.

Because they’re from the government and they’re here to help.

Update 12/1/06: The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, perhaps realizing the stupidity of this proposal, has repealed it.

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2 Comments

  1. This story could be titled, “The (Health Department) Grinch Who Stole Christmas (Dinner from the Homeless).” Or, it could be titled, “Baked Goods May Be Made in Unsupervised Uncertified Kitchens So Long As They Will Be Sold as Fundraisers for Youth Athletic Associations in Fairfax County, But They May Not Be Given Away For Free to Feed the Homeless.”

    Okay, that second title is bit on the long side. The irony is that in our humble little Fairfax County, youth athletic association concessions stands may, in fact, sell home baked goodies, which, if carried down the street and given to a homeless shelter, would have to be thrown away. The exception allowing baked goods as fundraisers is an understandable reflection of democratically mandated regulatory flexibility. The newly discovered focus on pinched regulation of charitable endeavors is a frankly bizarre offspring of the nanny state.

    To confirm for yourself that the County is “divergent” (see “Twelve Monkeys”) regarding the dangers of distributing baked goods, see the Food Code section of the County Ordinance ARTICLE 6. Youth Athletic Concession Stands, Section 43.1-6-1.

    Comment by Jim Henderson — November 29, 2006 @ 10:26 am
  2. [...] Fresh off its efforts to efforts to “protect” the homeless, Fairfax County, Virginia is now seeking to silence church bells just in time for Christmas: Fairfax County officials have issued a ringing non-endorsement of the bells at St. John Neumann’s in Reston, ruling that they must toll within the limits of the county’s noise ordinance or not at all. [...]

    Pingback by The Liberty Papers»Blog Archive » Silencing The Church Bells — December 1, 2006 @ 4:00 am

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