KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri Health Department is speaking out after it poured bleach on food intended to be given to homeless people.
Nellie McCool, who helps run Free Hot Soup Kansas City, has been helping the homeless for years until Sunday.
"Officers and health inspectors demanded we destroy our food and we were violating health code violations by sharing meals with our friends," said McCool.
The department said the group wasn't following the law about serving the homeless.
"They were notified back in a meeting in September that they needed to get a permit and they just outright said they refused to do that," said Dr. Rex Archer, director of health for KCMO.
But McCool said she never heard from the department.
"That is incorrect," McCool said. "We never had any kind of government official ever come and speak with anybody at any of the public parks."
According to the health department, the permit is free and all organizations that want to serve food to homeless people (or anyone) needs this permit. Archer said the food was also not being handled correctly and could put others at risk.
"Preparing food in all these individuals homes when people haven't been trained, prepare food safely. Then, they are taking it and transporting it in trunks of cars when its cool. It's supposed to be warm food but they have no insulation or a way to keep the food warm," Archer said.
Regarding the incident involving Free Hot Soup & @KCMOHealthDept: Rules are there to protect the public's health, and all groups must follow them, no exceptions. https://t.co/WaIo0QMI98
— Mayor Sly James (@MayorSlyJames) November 5, 2018
He went on to say when they tried to take the food away on Sunday, volunteers got angry.
"At one of the sites, where they were informed that they were not going to be able to serve because they didn't have a permit and weren't doing it safely, they actually threw some of the food at our inspector," said Archer.
McCool disputes that claiming someone in the group got upset and threw the food on the ground. Inspectors then poured bleach on the food to make sure no one ate it.
"Standard procedure in public health is to go ahead and pour bleach on the food so that people won't consume something that is dangerous," Archer said.
Despite being shut down, organizers said they will continue to serve the people they call their friends.
The health department said they will be contacting the group to try to set up a meeting to discuss how they will go forward. Overall, they said, they just want to make sure health is put first before people give out free food.