On Tuesday evening, 14 April 2015, Joan Cheever, a chef in San Antonio, Texas, set out to offer food to those without homes and those without food - including the working poor - in the seventh largest city in the United States of America and even established a 501(c)3 nonprofit food truck - The Chow Train - to assist in these efforts. All of this is done without funding from any branch of government.
Despite having done this for the past ten years, Cheever was ticketed and given a fine of $2,000 for - get this - "serving – people – without a permit":
Officer Marrota: So you can take it to court and tell the judge exactly what you are telling me.Cheever: So what’s the citation for?Officer Marrota: For serving – people – without a permit. You are not allowed to serve. That is the city of San Antonio.Cheever: So any Good Samaritan that offers food for people that are in need or are homeless...Officer Marrota: That’s great. You are a Good Samaritan...Cheever: No, but…SAPD Officer Marrota: It’s very nice that you are doing that. However…Cheever: Do Good Samaritans get tickets in San Antonio?Officer Marrota: Yes [more].
Notice the difficulty Officer Marrota seems to have had in even referring to the poor as "people." This especially sad and troubling for one sworn to protecting the people.
On The Chow Train's Facebook page, Cheever provided more information into her questions about the ticket and fine:
When I talked to the health department and said WE--THE CHOW TRAIN-- are the caterers of the poor, they said, that's ridiculous. They don't have a caterer. When I said, what is the difference betw[een] me bringing food into the park vs. the age old tradition of families camping out and cooking AND serving food on Easter Sunday, they told me -- those people are their friends and family. I said the peeps are MY FRIENDS and I see them on a more regular basis than my own family. I asked where in the HEALTH CODE does it define friends and family. The health dept. said don't be ridiculous Ms. Cheever. They are NOT your friends and they are NOT your family. And they hung up on me. Let me be very clear: I AM THE CATERER to the homeless AND working poor of this city. I am not a criminal. My nonprofit is made up of GOOD SAMARITANS. It is bad enough and horrible enough to criminalize the poor. Now to call Good Samaritans criminals [more]?This, government interference, is - as I've said before - no small part of why the Church does not do more to help the poor (and here and here).
To her good credit, Cheever refusing to stop feeding the hungry and will argue her case on court under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. We will, after all, be judged on how we responded to those in need around us. Remember Jesus' words to those welcomed into the kingdom of heaven: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35). Remember, too, his words to those cast out: "For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43a stranger and you gave me no welcome" (Matthew 25:42-43).
If you would like to support the laudable efforts of The Chow Train, you make a donation here.