Fairfax County Homeless Now Protected From Food Poisoning

In a rare act of compassion, Health Officials in Fairfax County, Viriginia, have begun stringently enforcing health codes to ensure that homeless people don’t get food poisoning.

Under a tough new Fairfax County policy, residents can no longer donate food prepared in their homes or a church kitchen — be it a tuna casserole, sandwiches or even a batch of cookies — unless the kitchen is approved by the county, health officials said yesterday.

They said the crackdown on home-cooked meals is aimed at preventing food poisoning among homeless people.

But it is infuriating operators of shelters for the homeless and leaders of a coalition of churches that provides shelter and meals to homeless people during the winter. They said the strict standards for food served in the shelters will make it more difficult to serve healthy, hot meals to homeless people. The enforcement also, they said, makes little sense.

“We’re very aware that a number of homeless people eat out of dumpsters, and mom’s pot roast has got to be healthier than that,” said Jim Brigl, chief executive of Fairfax Area Christian Emergency & Transitional Services. “But that doesn’t meet the code.”

After all, if homeless people don’t eat, they can’t get food poisoning, can they? Don’t worry, though–Fairfax County officials have assured us that they are “trying to protect these people.”

By providing a nice incentive to get out of Fairfax County.

I’m as big a fan of separation of church and state as the next guy, but stamping out the Christmas spirit in favor of Scroogean Humbuganism probably isn’t what the Founders had in mind.

(link via Radley Balko)

Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Original Article syndicated via RSS from Outside The Beltway | OTB

  2. madmatt says:

    people use church kitchens for after services…so is it ok for parishioners and not the homeless? They will have to decide before they can enforce anything like that.

  3. Herb Ely says:

    It seems to me that separation is the issue here. If the state were to stay out of the church’s way, the homeless would be fed. If, by chance, a group of homeless does get food poising, there will always be a civil lawyer around to help the homeless collect.

  4. legion says:

    Indeed, Herb. If it’s a county-run shelter, I could see the issue – county liability. But the article implies that it’s all non-profits & churches that are running the affected shelters. What exactly are the limits of the Health Dept there, anyway – if the food isn’t being sold in a commercial venture how is the gov’t involved?

  5. John Burgess says:

    The solution to this problem is to get people like Mr Brigl brains for Christmas. Undue adhesion to the letter of regulation has got to be at least as unhealthy as home-cooked meals.

    My wife makes meals several times a year for a church in DC. She uses exactly the same standards she uses for anyone who eats in her home (lucky people!). She even times her delivery of the food to the church so that it doesn’t even need reheating. But her kitchen will not pass the same inspection that a professional restaurant’s kitchen has to pass. She doesn’t, for example, wear a hairnet.

    And I think you’ve the right author–Dickens–but perhaps the wrong character. How about Uriah Heep instead of Scrooge? Or perhaps Tulkinghorn from the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce travesty in Bleak House?

  6. just me says:

    This is essentially the state causing more harm than good in the name of wanting to do good-which pretty much makes the people in charge stupid.

  7. DC Loser says:

    Update on this story: The Fairfax County executive killed this rule, saying: “What were they thinking?” Good for him.