It took more than a year of organizing. 15,000 people signed a Change.org petition demanding that Gainesville feed all who are hungry. Dozens of local demonstrations were held, many organized by local college students and the Coalition to End the Meal Limits NOW. Change.org members even phone-banked the City Commission, demanding to know when a vote would be scheduled.
And finally, on August 18th, the City Commission voted unanimously to end the limit.
Instead, soup kitchens will be allowed to serve food for a 3-hour period each day, a compromise suggested by Kent Vann, Executive Director of the St. Francis House soup kitchen, which was at the center of this debate. The city attorney's office will now have to draft a new ordinance and the commission will have to approve it. At long last, Gainesville can move past the ill-conceived meal limit.
The City of Gainesville, Florida has imposed a 130-meals-a-day limit on area soup kitchens. St. Francis House is one soup kitchen that's being restricted by this limit and turns away dozens of people each day. The commissioners of Gainesville could immediately rescind this limit, and relieve St. Francis House and other area service agencies from having to adhere to this ordinance.
At a recent City Hall meeting, an 8 year-old girl named Mackenzie Case said, "It makes me sad that we have hungry people we aren't allowed to feed." She also held a hand-written sign that said, "If I was No. 131 you wouldn't feed me?"
The pleas of this courageous little girl speaks volumes. We need to let the City of Gainesville know just how outrageous and inhumane this limit is.
In these uncertain financial times, many of us are one paycheck away from being homeless. This is not rhetoric, it's a scary fact. Food is incredibly expensive. If a family is forced to pay even more money out of pocket to feed their family, they become even closer to losing their home and other necessities. This is why soup kitchens and food pantries are critical assets to each city. Enacting a limit may lead to less of a financial strain on the city for the short term, but having to provide services to many more homeless individuals and families in the long term will certainly cost much more. Preventing the problem is always less expensive than attempting to manage it.
Soup kitchens exist to help meet the basic needs of all of us. We are ALL deserving of a hot meal. Without food, a person cannot possibly thrive. The cycle of poverty will no doubt continue. Each city needs to work to meet these basic needs to ensure that each person can get one step closer to moving out of this dangerous cycle.
Please join us in demanding the city of Gainesville to overturn this limit! It is up to the city - not up to each soup kitchen. Help us prevent another family from going hungry.