|Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry at the downtown post office in Santa Cruz.|
A new law that bans the sharing of food in public in Fort Lauderdale was officially approved on October 22 and went into effect on October 31. The measure requires feeding sites to be at least 500 feet away from each other, and 500 feet from residential properties. Additionally, sharing food in public is now limited to one group per city block.
The issue received national attention when 90-year-old Arnold Abbott received arrest citations from authorities on two different days for serving food in Stranahan Park, which is located in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Arnold Abbott has fed the homeless in Broward County since 1991, and he estimates he has served more than a half-million meals through the nonprofit, all-volunteer Love Thy Neighbor Fund he founded nearly 20 years ago. On Sunday, November 2, he and two clergymen were cited after serving only three or four meals in Stranahan Park.
A protest was also initiated on November 2 by Jillian Pim, a resident of Dania, Florida. Pim, a volunteer with Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, began a hunger strike to protest the new ban on sharing food.
The week continued to intensify as eight people were arrested on November 4 for attempting to meet with the executive director of the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Board to urge him to renounce the new ordinance, which activists call a "homeless hate law."
Arnold Abott was cited a second time for serving food with Love Thy Neighbor Fund members after serving approximately 100 meals on November 5.
The first individuals to be arrested and physically detained under the new sharing ban were two volunteers from Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs. On Friday, November 7, two of their volunteers were handcuffed and taken to jail for refusing to stop sharing food, and another was cited and issued a written citation like those given out to Abbott and others.
According to Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs, during the past year authorities have attempted to disrupt public food sharing in nearly 60 communities in the United States, including Worcester, Sacramento, Olympia, Taos, Boulder, Raleigh, Portland, Philadelphia, Seattle, Saint Louis, Santa Monica, Houston, Birmingham, Los Angeles, Columbia, and Chico.
At the November 8 event in Santa Cruz, Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry estimated that he has been arrested nearly 100 times for serving food to hungry people in various locations around the United States.
Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs shares food every Saturday and Sunday at 4pm at the downtown post office.
The Santa Cruz group had some brushes with authorities when first serving at that location, but since moving their serving location a bit, volunteers have operated without any further problems.
Food Not Bombs has had a long history in Santa Cruz. The current manifestation of the group has participated in a number of political demonstrations, providing food, and they hosted a large outdoor holiday meal on Christmas day in 2013.