Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fairfax county thinks eating out of a dumpster safer than a home cooked meal

Pictured above: The Rev. Keary Kincannon's in his unauthorized kitchen

John Stossel: Government rules don't feed anyone

Syndicated columnist and host of ABC News' "20/20"

Mary Baker and Ruth Neikirk love to cook. What's more, they love to cook for poor people. They do it frequently, preparing meals at home and bringing them to their church in Virginia.

"I love it," Mary says. "I can take a little bit of something, like a soup bone? And I can make a whole pot of something. Tastes good. With some cornbread you got 'em a meal!"

The people they cook for love it, too. But there's a problem. It was "criminal activity." The Fairfax County health department points out that Mary and Ruth are actually preparing food and serving it to people! Without a license!

That's not safe, said the health department. What if there's food poisoning? Hundreds of pages of regulation say that if you want to serve food to the public, you need a food-manager certificate, a ware-washing machine (with internal baffles), drain boards, ventilation-hood systems, a sink with at least three compartments, as well as a hand-washing sink, can openers with removable parts, and much more, for page after page.

The county health department wasn't being capricious. It was just enforcing its rules. There had been a complaint. No one had gotten sick, but an "advocate for the homeless" noticed that church kitchens, which appeared sparkling clean to my ABC team, didn't meet "code."

"You've got to be kidding, give us a break," the Rev. Judy Fender told us. "We can fix a nice meal here, but we can't serve it!"

The health department said it was just looking out for the homeless. But did the officials ever think about where street people eat when they don't eat at these churches?

"They've never stopped me from eating out of a Dumpster or a trash can," says James, a homeless man who understands Henry Hazlitt's "economics in one lesson," namely, look for the secondary results of government policy. The government can close down church kitchens, but that'll only send the poor to the garbage cans. Is that better?

"Some of them take their jobs just a little too seriously," said James. "They got nothing better to do than sit around and write legislation." More here

Good old Tom Crow of the Fairfax Health Department. Keeping homeless people safe. It's amazing how clumsy and intrusive government agencies can be even at the county level. What was this guy thinking? Just following orders-"Well it says here this is the rule and we have to follow it-it's too bad people have to starve to death and eat out of trashcans and such, but rules are rules. And I wouldn't want to get into any trouble at my little job."

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