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Chef Fights $2,000 Fine for Feeding the Homeless

She may sue the city.

Joan Cheever and a cop.
Joan Cheever and a cop.

A Texas-based chef who was recently ticketed for feeding the homeless will soon appear in court to fight her citation. Earlier this month, chef Joan Cheever was fined $2,000 for giving away food to a line of hungry and homeless people. The Atlantic writes that Cheever has been donating meals every Tuesday night for the last 10 years at the same park in downtown San Antonio. However, last week she was given a ticket by the police. While she prepared her menu of lamb meatballs, pasta, vegetable soup, and braised greens in a commercial kitchen and had a food handler's license, that wasn't enough for the cops. Cheever was lacking an oddly specific permit to give away "food free of charge."

Cheever is not alone: The Atlantic notes a number of local governments around the country are "coercing individuals and organizations to stop helping their least-well-off neighbors." The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that 71 cities last year restricted or banned food sharing." The Washington Post writes that last year, police in Florida busted a 90-year-old man twice in one week for feeding the homeless. Church groups say that authorities have "threatened to arrest them" if they kept trying to feed the homeless as well.

Cheever — who is also a lawyer — is standing her ground. The Washington Post notes that so far she has ignored the citation. Cheever says she is going to continue to fight the citation and is waiting for an apology from the city: "I shouldn't be the one on the hot seat here."

Cheever even filed a lawsuit against the city of San Antonio "on the grounds that her religious freedom was violated." Cheever states: "The Bible says, ‘When I was hungry, you fed me,' and I take that seriously. This is the way I pray, and we'll go to court on this." So far, Cheever has seen an outpouring of support: There is even a GoFundMe campaign set up to cover the cost of her citation.

Luckily not all operations to help feed the homeless have been shut down. In January, a pizzeria in Philadelphia revealed that over the a span of nine months, it managed to give away 8,500 slices of pizza to feed between 30 and 40 homeless people per day.