Houston Health Department

Charitable Feeding


In the spring of 2012, the Houston City Council approved an ordinance establishing a voluntary program to coordinate outdoor food service operations for the homeless. The ordinance was the result of months of discussion among various city departments, homeless service agencies, law enforcement, homeless food service organizations and private property owners and managers.

The intent of the ordinance was three pronged:

  • to improve the quality, quantity, and distribution of food provided outdoors;
  • to expand the opportunities for the homeless to connect with service providers; and
  • to reduce the disproportionate environmental impact of food service operations on public and private property.

The program consists of four basic steps

  1. Registration of the formal or informal food service organization. Registration includes contact information, proposed schedule, location and proposed food to be served.
  2. Free food handling training for one or more members of the food service group provided by the Houston Health Department. The training also includes information from the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County about working with the homeless and referral information for additional services needed by the homeless.
  3. The only mandatory step is a requirement to obtain owner consent before using either public or private property for food service of more than five people. This is required for both registered and non-registered food service operations.
  4. Coordination of location and times of food service to maximize the distribution of food throughout the week.

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Food Safety Classes

The recognized charitable food service provider program is a voluntary program whose goal is to provide coordination of operations to organizations that serve homeless individuals. The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and the Houston Health Department are collaborating on this program.

Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County

The Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to lead in the development and implementation of community strategies to prevent and end homelessness. In 1982, at the request of then Harris County Judge Jon Lindsay and Houston Mayor Kathryn Whitmire, the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County was founded by area homeless social services for an exploding number of people who became homeless as a result of local economic deterioration. In 1988, the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County incorporated as a 501(c)(3).