When did we start expecting that sharing a meal with the hungry and homeless is illegal?
NCH often receives calls from generous individuals and organizations who wish to feed the homeless in their city. They call with reasonable questions, aware of the potential illegality of helping others, to ask about food distribution bans or restrictions in their area. Within the last two years (2013-2015) over 26 cities and communities have passed laws restricting the distribution of food to the homeless, and the number is growing every year. Those kind enough to want to feed the hungry must jump through hoops and navigate red tape simply to share food with others.
Food-sharing restrictions do not address the root causes of homelessness and poverty in the United States. Instead, they create barriers for those trying to help. And yet, over time, these restrictions on food sharing have become the norm. The idea that sharing meals with others should be regulated by the law is no longer a surprise to most people, in fact, it is expected.
Our societal entrenchment in rules and regulations slows our ability to express kindness and generosity for others. In order to address poverty, hunger, and homelessness, we must find a way to break free of this attitudinal obstacle and take thoughtful action, free of restraint.
Take a look at our October, 2014 report “Share No More: The Criminalization of Efforts to Feed People in Need” for more details on the state of bans in the country.
NCH Summer Intern