Home > Charities > Obey state and local jurisdictional requirements when serving food to homeless

When the weather gets better, so does the urge to hold a picnic for the homeless and hungry. Many of the States and local jurisdictions in the U.S. have rules regarding food and serving food outdoors to unrelated individuals.


Most of the rules require that in order serve food, it has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen that holds a permit from the local jurisdiction or the state health agency. Also, they may require an additional permit to serve food at a public place or to feed the homeless. Check your local jurisdiction and the state for requirements and obey the law. Failure to comply with the state and/or the local jurisdiction’s requirements may carry a penalty as well as a ban on holding any events that serve food for the homeless and the needy.

Some argue that a charitable organization feeding homeless on a public park is a social issue rather than a health issue. They argue that local jurisdictions are trying to prevent homeless gather on highly visible public areas such as parks and downtown main transport corridors.

Jurisdictions argue that it is not about the homeless gatherings but their health and welfare.