Philadelphia lifts 4-year ban on serving food in city parks

Philadelphia is reversing course, more than four years after banning the outdoor serving of food in city parks.

That decision, in March 2012, prompted religious organizations that provided food and other services to the homeless and hungry in Philadelphia to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Then, in August 2012, the court issued an injunction that prevented implementation of the ban, and the plaintiffs continued their mission to serve the homeless and hungry.

Now, the Jim Kenney administration announced that regulation has been formally withdrawn, and both the city and plaintiffs asked that the federal injunctive action be dismissed.

"The solution to homelessness and hunger is not to stigmatize it and hide it from public view," Mayor Kenney said. "I share with the plaintiffs a steadfast commitment to serve those in need and, together with other homeless advocates, will continue to pursue short and long-term approaches to improve food distribution and other vital services and, ultimately, to end hunger and homelessness in Philadelphia."

In 2013, the city did establish the Food Access Collaborative, working with the plaintiffs and others to improve the availability of food and related services in healthy and safe environments.