City Officials Fight Gridlock at the Expense of Hungry Residents

A home-based food bank is quashed by confusing municipal codes and complaints about increased traffic.
Nov 24, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Josh Scherer has written for Epicurious, Thrillist, and Los Angeles magazine. He is constantly covered in corn chip crumbs.

As urban sprawl and concrete jungles engulf the American landscape, we entrench ourselves deeper in the lethargy of conveyance, and millions in collective horsepower are mired in gridlocked bondage, with no room to run. In short—traffic sucks.

In Kent, Wash., officials are so staunchly against traffic that they are cutting off services for hungry residents to avoid it.

The city stopped Sharon Carter from serving food to 3,000 undernourished individuals every month out of her home-based food bank just to prevent a few dozen cars from lining the streets of her quiet residential neighborhood.

Carter has relied on private donations to fund her home food bank, which has been feeding hungry locals since 2008. Despite having a business license, she was issued a final notice to shut down from the city this past week. A clause in Kent’s city code dictates that a home business cannot host more than four client-related trips per day—a policy that Carter finds ludicrous.

“This is the last straw, where I can’t do anything about it, where sometimes I have 25 cars out here—maybe more. What’s wrong with that? I’m feeding people,” she stressed in an interview with Seattle’s Kiro 7 TV. “It’s nonsense! Just help me. Why wouldn’t anyone want to help something like this?”

Robert Huchinson, an employee with Kent Building Services, tells the network why. “The reason for this limitation is to help preserve the residential character of the city’s neighborhoods from commercial encroachment. The main purpose of the city’s code-enforcement program is to protect and maintain our community’s standards.”

Carter thinks that community standards shouldn’t be set by how many cars are in the street but by how many people are being cared for—and with other cities around the country aggressively criminalizing efforts to feed the homeless, she believes shutting down an established business over rather minor concerns is troubling, to say the least.

She understands her limitations and intends to give up her home food bank peacefully, but she won’t let that unsavory experience with city bureaucracy kill her philanthropic spirit. Instead, she plans to operate a mobile food bank that is able to serve undernourished individuals more directly.