PHILADELPHIA – In March 2012, the City of Philadelphia banned the outdoor serving of food in all City parks, prompting the filing of a federal civil rights lawsuit by religious organizations who provided food and other services to the homeless and hungry in Philadelphia. On August 9, 2012, a federal court issued an injunction that prevented implementation of the ban. Today, the Kenney administration announced that the regulation banning the public serving of food has been formally withdrawn. As a result, the City and the plaintiffs have asked that the federal injunctive action be dismissed.
Paul Messing, lead counsel in the federal civil rights case, stated, “All parties look forward to a spirit of cooperation in the struggle to ensure that all residents of Philadelphia are provided adequate housing and food.”
After the injunction was filed, the plaintiffs continued their mission to serve the homeless and hungry. The City established the Food Access Collaborative in 2013, working with the plaintiffs and others to improve the availability of food and related services in healthy and safe environments. As the same time, the City also recognized the important contributions of both religious and secular organizations in the fight against hunger and homelessness in Philadelphia, partnering with them on a number of different initiatives.
“The solution to homelessness and hunger is not to stigmatize it and hide it from public view,” said Mayor Kenney. “I share with the plaintiffs a steadfast commitment to serve those in need and, together with other homeless advocates, will continue to pursue short and long-term approaches to improve food distribution and other vital services and, ultimately, to end hunger and homelessness in Philadelphia.”
The plaintiffs are represented by Paul Messing and the firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg, Prof. Seth Kreimer of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Mary Catherine Roper of the A.C.L.U. The City is represented by Craig Straw, First Deputy City Solicitor.