Middletown “Food Not Bombs” Shutdown Part of National Trend

New York Times contributor Barbara Ehrenreich wrote an Op-Ed this weekend about the increasingly poor treatment of those suffering from poverty in America, and mentioned Middletown among its examples of local crackdowns on food sharing:

The viciousness of the official animus toward the indigent can be breathtaking. A few years ago, a group called Food Not Bombs started handing out free vegan food to hungry people in public parks around the nation. A number of cities, led by Las Vegas, passed ordinances forbidding the sharing of food with the indigent in public places, and several members of the group were arrested. A federal judge just overturned the anti-sharing law in Orlando, Fla., but the city is appealing. And now Middletown, Conn., is cracking down on food sharing.

In case you don’t remember, the Middletown Food Not Bombs group, which consists of Wesleyan students and other Middletown residents, distributed free food on Main Street in Middletown every weekend last semester, but were issued a cease-and-desist order from the Middletown Health Department for violating city health ordinances. They were then fined after defying it for months, but continued to distribute meals despite increasing official interference.

middletownfnb4-26-091

According to the Middletown Eye, FNB filed an injunction in federal court in June against the City of Middletown and the State of Connecticut to prevent enforcement of the cease-and-desist order, claiming that shutting down FNB gatherings is a violation of the group’s First Amendment rights:

“It is unbelievable that at a time of drastic cutbacks in state services, the State of Connecticut is wasting judicial resources on an unwinnable prosecution. Not only is this criminal prosecution a violation of Mr. Bobman’s First Amendment rights,” said Attorney Polan, “but it is also a case of illegal selective prosecution because the health department official who made the criminal complaint has admitted that Food Not Bombs is a leaderless organization. It is obvious that Mr. Bobman cannot be held criminally responsible for the actions of a political organization.”

According to the plaintiffs, Food Not Bombs does not “dispense food” in the manner that the city’s health code regulates, like a restaurant or a soup kitchen. Instead, Food Not Bombs gathers as a community to share food, in the form of a potluck, as a statement of equality and abundance. As plaintiff Fred Carroll stated: “What’s next? The Health Department will come in and regulate people’s picnics in the park?”

The Middletown Eye says FNB is working towards a solution that would allow members to keep distributing meals without further interference. Good luck, Food Not Bombs – hope the issue gets resolved soon.

NY Times: Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?


26 thoughts on “Middletown “Food Not Bombs” Shutdown Part of National Trend

  1. Pingback: Food Not Bombs contests cease-and-desist order - Wesleying

  2. Anonymous

    @11– That’s not to say that all of those associated with FNB consider themselves anarchists, though some do.

  3. Anonymous

    @11– That’s not to say that all of those associated with FNB consider themselves anarchists, though some do.

  4. Anonymous

    @5- FNB is an explicitly anarchist organization and operates in an anarchist manner (no leaders, no orders, consensus). Anarchists, unlike liberals, want no government, not more government.

  5. Anonymous

    @5- FNB is an explicitly anarchist organization and operates in an anarchist manner (no leaders, no orders, consensus). Anarchists, unlike liberals, want no government, not more government.

  6. Anonymous

    @9- Simply cooking in St. Vincent de Paul’s did not satisfy the health department, their criteria is more comprehensive. The soup kitchen, while openly supporting FNB, was uncomfortably having a group with so much “baggage” using their facility, potentially jeopardizing their own operation. Finally, FNB has consistently contended that the simple act of sharing food should not be regulated and has violated the health department mandate for this reason. Also, complying with the mandate would effectively prevent FNB from operating as they do now, remarkably efficiently (hot food and often several hundred pounds of produce each week) considering they have NO budget.

  7. Anonymous

    @9- Simply cooking in St. Vincent de Paul’s did not satisfy the health department, their criteria is more comprehensive. The soup kitchen, while openly supporting FNB, was uncomfortably having a group with so much “baggage” using their facility, potentially jeopardizing their own operation. Finally, FNB has consistently contended that the simple act of sharing food should not be regulated and has violated the health department mandate for this reason. Also, complying with the mandate would effectively prevent FNB from operating as they do now, remarkably efficiently (hot food and often several hundred pounds of produce each week) considering they have NO budget.

  8. Anonymous

    I would assume that the Middletown soup kitchen has a certified kitchen. Additionally, the soup kitchen is closed on Sundays. If I understand correctly, Sunday is the day of the week that FNB distributes food.

    Would it be possible for FNB to use the Middletown soup kitchen prep facilities on Sundays? If so, would the Middletown health codes then be met?

  9. Anonymous

    I would assume that the Middletown soup kitchen has a certified kitchen. Additionally, the soup kitchen is closed on Sundays. If I understand correctly, Sunday is the day of the week that FNB distributes food.

    Would it be possible for FNB to use the Middletown soup kitchen prep facilities on Sundays? If so, would the Middletown health codes then be met?

  10. Anonymous

    7: actually, no, the post is mainly inaccurate. this person is trying to associate two groups that have nothing to do with each other in order to discredit an awesome group of people.

  11. Anonymous

    7: actually, no, the post is mainly inaccurate. this person is trying to associate two groups that have nothing to do with each other in order to discredit an awesome group of people.

  12. H5N1

    If they need an “adequate kitchen,” I don’t see why they can’t team up with an organization in town. After all, that’s what they’re doing right now.

    As for confusing the two groups, note that that’s why I said that it was “mainly accurate”; there are things like that that the author missed.

    Regardless, I think the law is certainly not bullshit. It needs to be upheld, since it is in place to help and guard the hungry from people and groups which might not be as well-intentioned as FNB. Sure, in a perfect world, we could apply the law to only people who are violating it against the public well-being, but until that utopia comes, we all have to play by the rules.

  13. H5N1

    If they need an “adequate kitchen,” I don’t see why they can’t team up with an organization in town. After all, that’s what they’re doing right now.

    As for confusing the two groups, note that that’s why I said that it was “mainly accurate”; there are things like that that the author missed.

    Regardless, I think the law is certainly not bullshit. It needs to be upheld, since it is in place to help and guard the hungry from people and groups which might not be as well-intentioned as FNB. Sure, in a perfect world, we could apply the law to only people who are violating it against the public well-being, but until that utopia comes, we all have to play by the rules.

  14. Anonymous

    12:54:

    They can’t get a license without access to an “adequate kitchen,” which is part of why it’s bullshit.

    And the author of that post clearly doesn’t know very much about politics, as they’re confusing a left-anarchist group with statist-capitalist liberals.

    Good day.

  15. Anonymous

    12:54:

    They can’t get a license without access to an “adequate kitchen,” which is part of why it’s bullshit.

    And the author of that post clearly doesn’t know very much about politics, as they’re confusing a left-anarchist group with statist-capitalist liberals.

    Good day.

  16. H5N1

    I found this interesting and, in my opinion, mainly accurate comment on the website of the Hartford Courant, in response to their article on the matter:

    “I agree that these people deserve food, I just find it funny that these Wesleyan kids are all upset about running afoul of licensing requirements. It is safe to assume, that based upon their age and chosen school that these people are probably liberals. And it is safe to assume that expansion of government into the private sector to require a license to distribute food to the needy came from the left. Therefore, they shouldn’t be surprised to find out that their lefty laws actually apply to them too.”

    I personally think that FNB should itself get a license, perhaps with funding and facility support from Wesleyan or community businesses, or otherwise work towards following the law, instead of kvetching about it; it’s not like they have no political or economic capital with which to attack this situation. Their actions are clearly illegal, as even Wesleying states that they “distribute free food on Main Street”. This is not “gathering as a community to share food,” as FNB claims, which is clear to any observer. These laws were put in place to protect the quality of food dispensed to the needy across our nation, and Wesleyan students should respect that fact. Instead of trying to pry open loopholes, FNB should work with the city and legislators to both observe the law and increase the well-being of those who need our help most.

  17. H5N1

    I found this interesting and, in my opinion, mainly accurate comment on the website of the Hartford Courant, in response to their article on the matter:

    “I agree that these people deserve food, I just find it funny that these Wesleyan kids are all upset about running afoul of licensing requirements. It is safe to assume, that based upon their age and chosen school that these people are probably liberals. And it is safe to assume that expansion of government into the private sector to require a license to distribute food to the needy came from the left. Therefore, they shouldn’t be surprised to find out that their lefty laws actually apply to them too.”

    I personally think that FNB should itself get a license, perhaps with funding and facility support from Wesleyan or community businesses, or otherwise work towards following the law, instead of kvetching about it; it’s not like they have no political or economic capital with which to attack this situation. Their actions are clearly illegal, as even Wesleying states that they “distribute free food on Main Street”. This is not “gathering as a community to share food,” as FNB claims, which is clear to any observer. These laws were put in place to protect the quality of food dispensed to the needy across our nation, and Wesleyan students should respect that fact. Instead of trying to pry open loopholes, FNB should work with the city and legislators to both observe the law and increase the well-being of those who need our help most.

  18. Anonymous

    wait, why don’t they just get a permit from the health department and follow the guidelines?

  19. Pingback: Hartford IMC » Blog Archive » Food Not Bombs News Roundup

Comments are closed.