Houston Stops ‘Feed-A-Friend’ Program

January 14, 2011

Houston Stops ‘Feed a Friend’ Program that Provided Meals to Homeless

Mark Whittington, Yahoo! News


Bobby "Tre9" Herring, center, prays with John Bradley who had been on the streets for 41/2 months after his roommate lost his job and created financial stress during Feed a Friend anniversary event, Nov. 12, 2010, in Houston, under the Main Street bridge near downtown.

HOUSTON — Bobby and Amanda Herring thought they were doing a good deed by setting up an organization called “Feed a Friend” that provided a meal to between 60 and a 120 people every evening for the past year. The city of Houston disagreed.

The city of Houston has shut down “Feed a Friend,” according to the Houston Chronicle, because they lacked the proper permit to give food to other people. Nor, because of the nature of their operation, are they likely to get one.

To get the permit that the city of Houston demands, the food given out by the Herrings must be prepared in a certified kitchen under the supervision of a certified food manager. “Feed a Friend” relied on food donated by local business and prepared by Amanda Herring and various volunteers in various private kitchens.

The excuse the city of Houston has given for requiring a permit with such requirements is that the poor are more susceptible to food borne illnesses and very often lack access to proper health care. The city provided no proof that “Feed a Friend” has ever given anyone food poisoning, however, in the year it has operated, first on the corner of Commerce and San Jacinto, near the Harris County Jail then, at the request of the Police, under an overpass at Commerce and Travis streets.


Bethany Jenkins, left, who has been homeless for 3 years, prays with Amanda Herring, wife of Bobby "Tre9" Herring, at the Feed a Friend anniversary event, Nov. 12, 2010, in Houston, under the Main Street bridge near downtown.

The Herrings are looking for other options that will satisfy the city’s requirements, including working through a church that has a certified kitchen, or finding a downtown location. A more permanent solution, though, may lay through the passage of a “public feeding” ordinance that would streamline the process that public spirited people like Bobby and Amanda Herring must go through to get permission to help those in need.

In the meantime, the situation that the Herrings find themselves in is illustrative of how government very often gets in the way of ordinary people who want to help others in need. Instead of encouraging people like Bobby and Amanda Herring to do what they do which, by the way, would help relieve the strain on government services, the government passes laws and imposes regulations that have the unintended consequence of allowing some of the homeless to go hungry.

Adherence to the rules, even when they make no sense, is a hallmark of a bureaucracy, especially one run by a government. Getting the rules changed is often a long, frustrating process. Bureaucrats do not like change. Change is bad and unsettling.

But a change in these rules would have incalculable benefit for people who need the help of other people like Bobby and Amanda Herring.

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Posted by on Jan 15 2011. Filed under Homelessness, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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