KCMO Health Department orders group to stop feeding homeless community

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Health Department stopped a group of people from feeding the homeless community on Sunday.

Volunteers with Free Hot Soup Kansas City were serving meals to individuals and families at Davis Park around 2 p.m. when they said a health inspector and KCMO police, who were there to keep the peace, showed up and shut them down.

“The health inspector and eight cop cars stopped us from doing what we do every Sunday,” said Brandy Herrera, a volunteer with the community group. “We serve food every Sunday for about an hour and have a picnic with our friends."

A copy of a complaint showed the health department shut them down because they didn’t have a permit and “food cannot be served without a permit.”

“They told us they had several complaints and they’ve been trying to tell us for several weeks that we needed to shut down, but I’m not familiar with that,” Herrera said. “I’ve never seen them come and tell us anything.

Group members said a similar situation happened at another park they serve.

“On any given Sunday, we feed between 100 and 300 people in need and today we weren’t able to do that at all,” Herrera said. “It was just mean.”

Clarene Winkler, who witnessed what happened, agreed. She was especially upset about how the department disposed of the food.

“We had moms there with kids and they’re hollering, ‘Can’t we at least let our kids get some food?’ and then the health department just throws the good food in the trash bags in front of the kids,” Winkler recalled.

The group salvaged some of the food, but they said a lot of it ended up in the trash.

“Hungry people and you’re throwing the good food away right in front of them,” Winkler said. “I don’t get it.”

Volunteers with Free Hot Soup Kansas City, which has been serving food to the homeless community for three years, said they’re not a charity or establishment, they’re just neighbors trying to feed those who are less fortunate.

“There’s still a need, people out there who need help and so I’m not going to give up on something I believe in just because they said that,” Herrera said.

Some of the group members said they were going to apply for a permit but added what they’re doing is no different than having a picnic with friends.

FOX4 reached out to the health department for comment but did not receive a response as of Sunday evening.

This isn’t the first time the health department has been criticized for dumping food intended for the homeless. In November 2016, hundreds of pounds of American Royal barbecue were bleached and thrown in the trash. The department said it couldn’t ensure the food’s safety.