Maplewood city council discusses food pantry boxes, and potential liability

The Maplewood city council met on Tuesday via Zoom, and the subject of the various food pantry boxes around the city came up.

Maplewood resident, Donna Parks Ratkowski, summarized on Facebook a portion of the meeting where council members discussed the food pantries (boxes stocked by residents for anyone needing food) found in various parts of the city. The group called Maplegood organizes stocking the boxes, some with food and some with personal care items.

Ratkowski noted that some of the council members’ biggest concern about the food pantries seem to be about liability. Her notes are below:

  1. Big concern about attracting homeless folks to our community, especially as they are driven out of locations in the City. They said until a couple of weeks ago we had 2-3 unhoused folks that camped at Kellogg Park, and now there are more like 15 people. I believe they have taken over the pavilion (?) and the City has had to discontinue reserving it for citizens to use. I think some close neighbors have expressed concern about safety.
  2. They would like to put us in touch with the Health Department and with the three faith-based groups that run food pantries in Maplewood so that we could maybe consolidate our activities.
  3. The City is really concerned about potential liability due to perishable food being distributed as well as attracting crowds of folks who then hang around the park pavilions. Specifically mentioned were Kellogg Park and the Yale Bus Loop.
  4. They have no intention of interfering with the pantries that are on church properties.
  5. In general, the City stated that they don’t want to be heavy handed or force any of our pantries to close, but would really like to encourage us to move off city property where possible.
  6. Council members Schmidt and Pardini spoke very strongly in favor of MapleGOOD and we’re grateful for their support.
Also: The City said they’ve had complaint(s) about an unhoused person stripping down to their undershorts and showering with a neighbor’s garden hose. There’s also an individual that has come into City Hall to use their bathrooms for this purpose. This is a security concern they want to address. There was discussion about whether there is an accessible place where folks could go to shower, etc.

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