As outdoor serving task force convenes, advocates still question Philly ban

    A mayoral task force on outdoor food serving officially began work Thursday in Philadelphia, but some still question the need for the ban that prompted the creation of the group.

    Going into the first meeting, Adam Bruckner, a task force member who runs an outreach organization that provides IDs and serves food to the hungry on the Parkway, said the meeting seems a bit late.

    “I would have preferred that they did this before they had the ban on the homeless,” Bruckner said. “And I think some of the advocates have grown frustrated.”

    He had hoped the ban on serving food in public parks would be up for discussion at the meeting, but that did not happen.

    “The task force really isn’t addressing policy issues, it really is focused on how do we build capacity within the city for people to be able to eat food indoors,” said Arthur Evans, commissioner for the Philadelphia Department of Behaviorial Health and task force head.

    Brian Jenkins, head of Chosen 300 Ministries, said it is not yet time to accept the ban, which he called unconstitutional.

    “I often drive through Center City Philadelphia and I see people lined up at food trucks for a hot dog and a bag of chips. And then they go sit and eat in a park,” Jenkins said. “But if we come down and serve the homeless outside and there’s a line of people and they eat in a park, it’s wrong. And that’s where the injustice and the inequality is in this matter.”

    Task force members hope to compile a report by August. Meanwhile, the city aims to start enforcing the ban on serving in public parks on June 1.

    Four groups have been certified by the city health department to serve food at a temporary station outside City Hall.

    The city has moved portable toilets and a temporary hand-washing station there.

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