Monday, February 14, 2011

Constructive Alternatives to Food Sharing Restrictions

Despite the prevalence of food sharing restrictions that hinder access to food for individuals experiencing homelessness, there are examples of positive ways hunger is being addressed.

These examples include the expansion of existing federal nutrition programs, innovative new programs, and collaboration between cities and local service providers.

Some examples include:

*The city of Ft. Myers, Florida abandoned plans to limit food sharing programs that serve homeless individuals in public parks, due to a negative public response to the proposal, in 2007. Subsequently, a city council member and local service providers collaborated to address community concerns surrounding public food sharing. Ultimately, the city council promised to work with local homeless service providers to create a Hunger Task Force, which has strengthened local alliances and resources.

*In Los Angeles, California Jonathan Lee, while a student at UCLA, recognized that there were hundreds of unused student meal plan meals at the end of the semester and
identified those as potential meals and snacks to be donated to people experiencing
homelessness and hunger in the community. He recruited help and started Swipes for the Homeless, a quarterly program that collects hundreds of donated meal card swipes from their peers.

*A federal program, the EBT Restaurant Meals Program, allows people experiencing
homelessness to use SNAP/Food Stamp benefits at authorized restaurants. Participation
is up to each state, and while many states do not take advantage of the program, it has expanded in the several states that do. California’s Los Angeles County has 477
restaurants participating in the program, including Subway, Dominos Pizza, El Pollo
Loco and Jack in the Box. Michigan and Arizona also have restaurants participating, and Florida is in the process of implementing a pilot program.

**Taken from "A Place at the Table", June 2010

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