This past Monday, October 22nd Alliance called on FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality Dean Mike Hampton to speak out against Fort Lauderdale’s criminalization of food sharing as the city expends $65,000 to support South Beach Wine and Food Festival events, with which FIU is embedded both as sponsor and beneficiary, to take place on Ft. Lauderdale Beach next week.
Below is Dean Hampton’s email response to our letter, followed by our reply to that, which we find to be lacking:
Mr. Weinberger –
Thank you for sharing your concerns with me.
As a university, we’re sensitive in a great many ways to the issue of hunger in our community; and, we have an established tradition of working with local food rescue organizations to ensure that leftover food reaches those in need. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival® specifically has worked with Feeding South Florida for several years, and its sister event in New York City has raised more than nine million dollars in support of the hunger-relief organizations No Kid Hungry® and Food Bank For New York City. Additionally, the founder and director for both Festivals, Lee Brian Schrager, is a member of the Board of Directors for Food Bank For New York City.
We appreciate and applaud your like-minded commitment to hunger-relief and wish you the best of luck with your efforts.
Mike Hampton , Ed.D.
Our reply to Dean Hampton:
I’ll begin, as I did in my first communication, by commending you, this time for your and your colleagues’ efforts to satiate the massive hunger experienced by millions of people in our nation who depend on compassionate food sharers for their daily meals.
This, however, was not the intent of my letter to you, which was notably endorsed by a who’s who of individuals connected to organizations whose mission it is to end homelessness, including the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH). Our collective and irrevocable goal is also to end the criminalization of those who share food, and more so those with whom they share it, namely folks who are hungry and/or homeless. This was the major point of our letter to you, but it is a point which you have left unaddressed in your response.
I’m attaching a report from NCH from just 16 months ago, “Share No More”, which documents the unconscionable and growing reality of cities across the country which restrict public food sharing. Florida is where at least 12 of these cities are located, more than any other state. At the time of the report’s publication that number was 11, but currently the city of Oakland Park is seeking to stop a food sharing out of a church, All Saints Catholic Mission, which has gone on day in, day out for 25 years. As the report documents, the increase in recent years of laws criminalizing food sharing has been exponential.
Need it be said, we all need food in order to survive. The act of providing food to those who who would otherwise go hungry, or would have to steal to eat, therefore, is no less a need than the food, itself. My home city of Fort Lauderdale and dozens of cities across our country, however, have deemed that act a crime.
It is against this background of Fort Lauderdale’s criminalization of food sharing that the city also has chosen to expend $65,000 on two exclusive food events which your school supports and from which it will benefit, as the events are direct offshoots of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Please don’t remain silent about this misguided and hurtful stance on the part of Fort Laudedale Mayor Jack Seiler and the other City Commissioners! Wiser people than us have recognized the personal price we pay for such silence. But the cost to us as a society is even greater, and is already tragically reflected in the tattered social fabric which comprises US culture today.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
Again I urge you to publicly take a stand on my city’s punitive regime against its most caring residents, and against those whom we serve.
I’ll leave you with another quote from the great Martin Luther King, Jr.: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
That restructuring will never happen in a world where the best we can do is to remain silent in the face of evil.
October 22nd Alliance to End Homelessness
P.S. To be fair, I want you to know that all your communication with me on this matter is for public consumption.