The week after Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced a ban on serving food in public parks, the Philadelphia Board of Health adopted a rule that requires those who serve food to the hungry anywhere outdoors to obtain permits.
The rule approved Thursday evening is less strict than the version originally proposed a month ago, and concerns that permits would be used to bar the homeless from the Benjamin Franklin Parkway are now moot in light of the Mayoral ban.
Still, the board faced vocal protests in advance of their decision.
The meeting had to be moved to a different room after activists from Occupy Philadelphia interrupted Health Commissioner Don Schwarz’s reading of the revised regulation with call-and-response chanting.
“It’s not even a question of whether I think this law will be effective or enforced,” said Occupy’s Larry Swetman. “It’s more of a question of the process by which this happened, and the process was that this was handed down on high by the power structure.”
Three members of the Occupy movement eventually were arrested.
The new rule requires groups to tell the health department only the general location where they will serve food, rather than a specific spot as previously proposed. Philadelphia Health Commissioner Schwarz said the department would not use the permits to ferret out people defying the Mayor’s new ban.
“The way that this is now written doesn’t ask, where will you be tonight or tomorrow night” Schwarz said. “It says ‘Give us a cross street and a ten block radius will be what’s assumed.’ We believe that cross street and ten block radius gives wiggle room to everyone.”
The rule no longer requires home or church kitchens to be inspected, or groups to submit specific menu items to the board of health in advance.
The rule does require hand-washing stations at every serving location and at least one person handling food to go through the city’s free, two-hour food safety course.
Schwarz expects to start enforcing the rule at the beginning of May.