A Philadelphia woman who runs a free lunch program is facing a difficult choice: end the program or pay a $600 fine. Angela Prattis is able to feed around 60 kids a day, by running a program supplied by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and funded by the state department of education. But now her program is being threatened by Chester Township.
As Fox News reports, silly zoning regulations are to blame:
Chester Township, which has a per capita income of $19,000 a year, says Prattis lives in a residential zone, hence handing out food to children is not allowed. The township says she needs to go before a zoning board to ask for a variance, which would cost her up to $1,000 in administrative fees.
Unfortunately, more cities across the country are cracking down on compassion. Earlier this year, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned food donations to the homeless “because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content.” Feeding the needy in Dallas requires official permission from the city government. Houston even mandates a permit to share food, or else the charitable will be fined up to $500. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, around 30 cities have restricted donating food to less fortunate.
However, there is push back against punishing those who help the needy. A Dallas-area ministry is suing the city, arguing Dallas’ restrictive ordinance violates their religious freedom. Recently, U.S. District Judge William Yohn blocked Philadelphia’s ban on feeding the homeless in public. The city is appealing his decision. In his opinion, Yohn denounced the ban: “It hardly needs to be said that plaintiffs’ food-sharing programs benefit the public interest. Despite [the city’s] considerable efforts, many Philadelphians remain homeless and hungry.”
Yohn also noted the ban was motivated not by altruism, but by vanity: “the true purpose behind the ban is to move plaintiff’s activities away from the many cultural attractions along the Parkway in an effort to hide the city’s homeless population from tourist eyes.”
Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia’s backwards bureaucracy has also stymied economic growth. Institute for Justice attorney Robert McNamara elaborates in his city study, No Brotherly Love for Entrepreneurs: It’s Never Sunny for Philadelphia’s Small Businesses.