Nov 13, 2018 – Missouri health department officials admitted to pouring bleach on food meant for homeless people earlier this month, claiming the volunteers preparing and serving food didn’t have permits.
On Nov. 5, Kansas City health department employees dumped vats of chili and soup as well as sandwiches in bags and soaked them in bleach to stop homeless people from eating the food — which they deemed a potential health threat.
“E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food,” director of health for Kansas City, Rex Archer, told Fox 32.
“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.”
But members of Free Hot Soup, the organization feeding the homeless, told KCTV that homeless people were undeterred by the bleach and ate the food anyway because they thought it would “clean out their systems.” The group said that if the health inspectors were truly concerned about the health of the homeless, they wouldn’t have left the bags of food out for them to sift through.
The organization claimed the health department’s crackdown was actually to keep homeless people from gathering in public parks
“They don’t like the quality of people we are attracting. They don’t like looking at them,” Nellie Ann McCool with Free Hot Soup told KCTV.
The health department denied that allegation, according to an article published by the Kansas City Star this week.
Members of Free Hot Soup argued that they are merely “friends of the homeless,” and said if people don’t need a permit to host a potluck dinner for friends, neither should they.
“This is scaring all of us,” one of the group’s organizer’s, Tara McGaw, told the Kansas City Star on Nov. 5. “We’re not an establishment. We’re not a not-for-profit. We’re just friends trying to help people on the side.”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James sided with the health department after the story came to light.
“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 tweeted after the incident.
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) November 5, 2018