It’s hard to imagine who, exactly, would stand in the way of needy or hungry children receiving free lunches. Sadly, however, while it may be hard to imagine, it’s not impossible.
A church director in southeastern Pennsylvania, Angela Prattis, was threatened with a $600 per day fine if she continued handing out 60 free, prepackaged meals daily to underprivileged children in her neighborhood, according to the Christian Science Monitor (via NBC 10 Philadephia).
However, when the absurd story of the fine and her plight started making headlines, the fine was dropped, but the story still isn’t over.
In previous years, Prattis had been doling out the lunch boxes from her church in Delaware County, but this summer she started doing it from home since she recently had a baby. The meals are provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and are funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Prattis is among 450 people in the area who similarly hand out free meals from home or church in the summertime to needy children who lose out on the breakfasts and lunches served to them at school.
The issue, according to Chester Township, is zoning, since the food is being passed out in a residential and not a business area. However, Prattis isn’t cooking or selling the food — she’s simply passing it along.
The variance she’s now required to get to continue her good deed next summer costs $1,000, which she doesn’t have, although donations in excess of that amount have been flowing to relieve her of the financial burden, according to the Delco Daily Times. She’s also been approached by a Philadelphia zoning attorney who’s offered free assistance in applying for the variance.
“I have to live here, and I don’t want to cause problems,” Prattis said to the newspaper, “but our hope is that we can change the law so people don’t have to go through all of this in the future.”
For their part, Chester Township officials have also expressed concern about being “legally liable for any incidents related to the food distribution program, and that the zoning laws are in place to protect the neighborhood and prevent residents from conducting business in residential areas.”
Prattis has declined the alternative handout locations that have been offered to her.
While it’s no small concern to be concerned with liability and zoning, it’s seems children going hungry should be a bigger concern. It would likely go a long way towards goodwill in the community if township officials waived the variance fee and did everything they could to ensure a woman doing a very good deed was made to feel less like a criminal for something as un-sinister as ensuring the nutritional needs of hungry children.
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