Health inspectors confiscate and pour bleach on food meant for homeless people
The Kansas City Health Department claimed in a statement that the group did not have permits and could have been serving food that presented a health risk.
Health department officials in Kansas City, Missouri, are being heavily criticized across various social media platforms after it emerged that they poured bleach on large quantities of food that was meant to be served to homeless people. The reason? They say the volunteers did not have the requisite permits to be distributing the food and claimed there could be health concerns. According to a report by KCTV, the inspectors simultaneously shut down large picnics organized by a group called Free Hot Soup KC across the city on November 5. They then collected the food, dumped all of them into bags, and soaked it in bleach so no homeless person could sift through it or eat it.
Below is KCHD’s statement regarding the group “Free Hot Soup Kansas City” serving food to the general public. pic.twitter.com/ZewLlXzi4M— KCMO Health Dept (@KCMOHealthDept) 5 November 2018
The Kansas City Star said the crackdown was the culmination of a coordinated sting at several parks where volunteers of Free Hout Soup KC had gathered on the day. The food destroyed is said to have included home-cooked chili, foil-wrapped sandwiches, and vats of soup, with the volunteers claiming that the bleach did not deter some of the homeless from attempting to salvage the food afterward.
In a statement, the Kansas City Health Department argued, "Free Hot Soup Kansas City has advertised their events as family picnics operating at several park locations throughout the city. These gatherings are open to the general public, which requires the group to follow all applicable City Ordinances."
"The group organizes volunteers to prepare food at homes and transports the food in personal vehicles to serving locations. The food is not kept at a required temperature for food safety. KHCD believes everyone, including those experiencing homelessness, deserve the reassurance of food safety practices.
Speaking to Fox32, the city's health department director Dr. Rex Archer defended the decision and also the food could have put the consumers at risk. "E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food," he said. "And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable, they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure."
Mayor Sly James echoed that sentiment and backed his city's health department in the issue. "Regarding the incident involving Free Hot Soup & @KCMOHealthDept: Rules are there to protect the public's health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions," he wrote on Twitter.
The organizers of the giveaway say they shouldn't need permits because they are neither a food establishment nor a not-for-profit group, but "friends who want to help people." They also say the health department had more sinister reasons to shut down the picnics.
"They don’t like the quality of people we are attracting. They don’t like looking at them,” said Nellie Ann McCool with Free Hot Soup to KCTV. Other group members expressed a similar view and said the North Blue Ridge Neighborhood Association has been trying to shut them down because homeless people were coming to their parks and they didn't like that.
They are adamant this setback will not stop them from serving the homeless. Free Hot Soup has removed information from their Facebook page which would tip off city inspectors to what time they would be at different parks.