Food Not Bombs had a hearing with the Middletown Health Department in Hartford on August 11, to appeal the cease-and-desist order they were issued earlier this year for serving food without a license.
Two witnesses from the Health Department testified about their investigation of FNB, but the hearing ended before any other witnesses could be called. Abe Bobman ’11 (pictured at right), the Food Not Bombs representative in these proceedings, will get to testify at a later hearing which has not been scheduled yet.
From the Hartford Courant:
During Tuesday’s hearing, Alexandria Boccio, the lawyer representing the Middletown Health Department, called two witnesses — Manfred Rehm, a public health sanitarian, and Salvatore Nesci, chief public health sanitarian. The nearly five-hour hearing grew contentious at times as one of Food Not Bombs’ lawyers repeatedly objected to Boccio’s line of questioning.[…] Nesci said the Middletown group did not protect its food with sneeze guards and proper utensils and did not use gloves. Nesci said he doesn’t want to stop Food Not Bombs from giving out food to the needy, but that he wants the group to be licensed and to keep a record of who prepares the food in case it makes someone ill.
“They are fulfilling a recognizable need,” he said. “Their work is admirable … [but] it needs to be brought into compliance.”
In his cross examination of Nesci, Peter Goselin, one of two lawyers representing Food Not Bombs at no charge, focused on why school bake sales and lemonade stands are not regulated. Goselin asked several times why those groups are exempted from the laws that regulate the public distribution of food, and why that exemption doesn’t apply to Food Not Bombs.
Nesci said that unlike a biannual bake sale, Food Not Bombs holds weekly potlucks, which puts it in the same category as a regulated food establishment. Rehm said his department doesn’t have the “manpower” to regulate occasional and unannounced bake sales and lemonade stands.
…So ideally all food distribution, everywhere, would be regulated – lemonade stands are only just sneaky enough to slip by.
A Hartford chapter of FNB showed up outside the government building before the hearing to distribute free bagels, coffee, and oatmeal in solidarity with the Middletown group, but were warned by Hartford police that they needed a food license to do so and asked to move across the street.
For now, Food Not Bombs has agreed to cook in a licensed kitchen at the First Church of Christ Congregational until the state rules on the validity of the city’s cease-and-desist order, which it seems won’t be for awhile.
Check out the Courant’s photo gallery of Food Not Bombs gatherings on March 29th and April 4th this year, and the court proceedings on August 11th.