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No soup for...the homeless? Kansas City Health Dept pours bleach on food intended for the needy

Officials from the Kansas City Health Department signaled "No soup for you!" to the city's homeless last week, when they shut down several picnics organized by the group Free Hot Soup Kansas City. (Image source: YouTube screencap)

"Seinfeld" fans will recall a character from the 90's show dubbed "The Soup Nazi," who would scream "No soup for you!" at any customer who didn't behave to his liking.

The Kansas City Health Department has now begun implementing "Soup Nazi" tactics in real life, after admittedly raiding several feed-the-homeless events last week — not only throwing away food, but pouring bleach on the discarded goods intended for the needy.

What are the details?

For the past three years, volunteers in a group called Free Hot Soup KC have coordinated potluck picnics at several Kansas City parks. The gatherings are open to the public and intended for people to be able to share food with anyone who is in need — particularly the homeless.

On Nov. 4, the health department executed a sting operation against the group at multiple locations, throwing their soups and sandwiches in trash bags and dousing them with bleach so no one would retrieve them. The Kansas City Star recalled the scene in a report the next day, saying, "It looked ugly."

But the health department is standing its ground and issued a statement noting that it was responding to multiple complaints against Free Hot Soup KC, and criticized the group because it "chose not to obtain required permitting to follow safe food handling practices."

Department director Rex Archer further explained to WFLD-TV, "E. coli or salmonella or listeria can grow in the food. And then you give that to homeless people who are more vulnerable, they will end up in the ER and even die from that exposure."

According to the Star, health department officials used social media to find out the locations of Free Hot Soup KC's events, which made it easy to coordinate their raids.

Tara McGaw, who organizes the group's gatherings in nearby Belton, said, "This is scaring all of us. We're not an establishment. We're not a not-for-profit. We're just friends trying to help people on the side."

Anything else?

The health department has offered to help Free Hot Soup KC to obtain its proper permitting and food-handling licensing, but the group argues that the city has no authority over their gatherings.

Attorney Amy Bell has volunteered her services to defend Free Hot Soup KC's picnics, telling KSHB-TV, "It's our right of freedom of association and freedom of speech."

Despite last week's raids, Free Hot Soup KC returned to hold their weekly picnics on Sunday, but no police or health department officials arrived this week. Just in case they were questioned again, several volunteers who work in the food industry brought their food handler permits and food thermometers to be able to show that the goods they were sharing were hot enough to be safely served.

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