March 20, 2012 -- After listening to input from the community, Mayor Parker has decided that there is more work to be done before implementing new regulations for charitable food service. She is recommending taking a step back, but is not by any means abandoning her commitment to solving the problems that prompted this discussion: the unapproved use of private property, the lack of coordination that results in food being wasted, the health and safety issues that can arise due to improperly prepared food and the trash often left behind.
“This is exactly how the process should work,” said Mayor Parker. “We identify a problem, put an idea out there to address it and then listen to find out if it is the best we can do. In this instance, we have received a number of reasonable suggestions so I am recommending incorporating some of those suggestions, taking a step back and listening some more. I am certain that by working together a good product can be crafted.”
As the first step in the discussion toward a better outcome, Mayor Parker released a new draft ordinance that recognizes the importance of charitable behavior while still providing protection for owners who don’t want that charity occurring on their properties, but would make other components voluntary.
The new draft prohibits any charitable food service on both public and private property without the written permission of the owner. Organizations that fail to obtain written permission may be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to $500.
The voluntary component of the draft ordinance would create the Charitable Food Service Provider Program. This was prompted by the organizations that indicated their desire to coordinate services, but without concerns about red tape. Organizations desiring to participate in the voluntary Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider Program will be required to:
- Register basic contact information with the City of Houston
- Cooperate with the City in scheduling any food service event at which five or more individuals will be fed
- Follow basic hygiene, sanitation, and food safety rules provided by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services
- Have at least one person at each food service site who has completed the free training in sanitary food preparation offered by HDHHS
- Authorize inspections by the HDHHS of their kitchens, transport vehicles and the like
- Implement changes suggested by the Health Department
- Clean up after the event
The names and addresses of organizations that abide by the above requirements will be listed on the City’s website. In addition, they will be entitled to use their designation as a Recognized Charitable Food Service Provider in their publications.