Joan Cheever of The Chow Train prepares a plate for someone in need. Photo by Scott Ball.
Joan Cheever of The Chow Train serves food to the homeless during the holidays in 2015. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

This holiday season, when Joan Cheever of The Chow Train and other charitable organizations feed the homeless and hungry in San Antonio, they’ll be doing it legally under the Charitable Feeding Ordinance, passed by City Council Thursday morning.

“I think it’s a victory for the charitable feeding community, and a wonderful Christmas gift,” Cheever said after the vote. “I’m happy with this ordinance, happy with City of San Antonio and happy that the people of San Antonio were heard.”

Before now, the City did not have an ordinance that specifically regulated charitable feeding practices, only rules for food trucks and other outdoor feeding events.

The City’s Human Services Director Melody Woosley and City Attorney Martha G. Sepeda recommended several changes to a previously proposed ordinance that would addressed Cheever’s concerns, which included: giving the City advanced notice of food truck’s locations, the requirement that the truck not be within 50 feet of an intersection, and the complex certifications required for food handlers.

City staff revisited the proposed ordinance and amended the following policies:

  1. The 50 foot rule has been eliminated, but it the charitable activity becomes a traffic hazard, traffic laws will kick in.
  2. The unit or organization must provide notice of activity within 24 hours before or after the event takes place, to ensure no one got sick. 
  3. Food handlers must have food handler certification, but are not required to have a food manager on site at all times.

Several Council members urged City staff and individuals like Cheever to meet again in six months to discuss the benefits and the faults within the ordinance. In the meantime, stakeholders seem satisfied with the changes. 

“Providing compassionate care for members of our community who are homeless should be a fundamental value for the city ,” said Pat DiGiovanni, president & CEO of Centro San Antonio. Centro’s input during the revision process was seen in the final ordinance, which, he said, would improve the overall experience of downtown San Antonio.

“The people of San Antonio have spoken,” Cheever said. “This shows that we don’t turn on our back on people, and we don’t turn a blind eye. This is a good plan and I look forward to continuing the work we have to do.”

Cheever received a citation for feeding the homeless at Maverick Park in April because her non-permitted vehicle used to transport and distribute food violated the City’s food handler ordinance to ensure health and safety. Cheever argued that the code was “discriminatory against good Samaritans.” The City later dismissed the ticket, but the case attracted local and national public outrage and a lawsuit from Cheever that encouraged the City to consider making exceptions for charitable organizations that set up shop in outdoor spaces.

Click here to follow the Chow Train this holiday season.

*Top Image: Joan Cheever of The Chow Train prepares a plate for someone in need.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

Related Stories:

Chow Train, Bike Club Give Area Homeless Holiday Care Packages

Feeding the Homeless: Joan Cheever’s Simply Complicated Mission

City Council to Consider Homeless Feeding Policy

Joan Cheever May File Lawsuit Against City

City Dismisses Joan Cheever’s Homeless Feeding Citation

Lea Thompson

Lea Thompson is a Texas native who has lived in Houston, Austin and San Antonio. She enjoys exploring new food and culture events. Follow her adventures on Instagram, Twitter or Culture Spoon.