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Food For Thought: The Charitable Giving Of Food

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The charitable giving of food is giving food to a person without charging that person any money for the food. It is true compassion and can be life saving.

When we want to serve food to someone living outside, we consider a few things.

1. We "serve" food to homeless people, we "feed" animals. Many years ago, Michael, a homeless man, brought this point to my attention. He explained how it felt to homeless people when they heard that the people serving them were "a feeding program." "That makes it sound like we're animals in the zoo," he said. "Could you please call your program something else?" he asked.

2. Every person we serve is our "guest." This idea came from Koo Koo Roos who used to say, and I hope they still do, to their customers, "Next guest, please." The concept of serving a guest helps us remember that we treat each person we serve with respect and kindness. And it is our goal to have enough of what we're serving so that every guest gets the same item.

3. We serve everyone who asks us for food, whether we truly believe they are hungry or not.
In rare circumstances someone who appears not to be homeless or in need, asks for food. We serve them just the same. Why? Because we understand that something may be missing in that person that perhaps the food that we are sharing can fill, at least for a time.

4. We can serve canned and packaged food in Los Angeles County, CA, anywhere and any time. In Los Angeles, there are no health rules and regulations dealing with the distribution of canned and packaged food. Please check to determine if there are any applicable rules and regulations about this in your locale.

5. Regarding canned and packaged food: we have to remember to follow the manufacturer's recommended temperature and be sure that their containers are properly maintained with their original seal and without damage so that there is no contamination or spoiling of the contents.

6. When serving prepared foods, we follow the relevant health regulations put forth by the Los Angeles County Department of Health. Similar regulations may exist in every county in the United States. Again, check the rules and regulations about this in your locale.

7. When serving canned, packaged or prepared foods, we must be aware of any applicable laws/ordinances in our area regarding the charitable distribution of food.

Since the early 1990's, some cities in the United States have passed laws/ordinances that dictate the conditions, including requiring permits, under which food can be distributed in that city.

On November 15, 2007, in their report, "Feeding Intolerance: Prohibitions on Sharing Food with People Experiencing Homelessness," the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless, found that "many cities have adopted a new tactic - one that targets...individual citizens and groups who attempt to share food with them." For the full report, please visit: http://www.nlchp.org/content/pubs/Feeding_Intolerance.07.pdf

In my next article, I hope to address some of the myths associated with the charitable giving of food.

Please let me know what you think about the charitable giving of food. I look forward to your comments. Thanks!

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