Jeannie Guffey, administrator of the Agape Help House food pantry and the Tri-County Senior Center, does not want to see food boxes placed in public places in Pacific for people to take free food.
Guffey said she had read in The Missourian about food boxes being placed around town and had concerns over it.
She said the Franklin County Health Department inspects the two organizations she runs, and also the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects the Agape House, which Lensures that the food provided there is safe.
Speaking at the Oct. 17 board of aldermen board meeting, Guffey questioned whether there would be safeguards for food placed in the boxes.
“The first thing they (inspectors) ask me when they come in is who sees food coming in, is there any contamination inside or outside the building,” she said. “They want to know if there is personnel to inspect this food.”
The CDC recommends you can use canned food two years after the sell-by date, but child products like Enfamil should not be used after the use-by date. If food freezes it can expand and cause botulism.
“Who do we know that is putting food in these boxes?” Guffey said. “Who do we know is coming to them? Will the boxes be open out in the street after hours when the places close? Are they going to be in facilities that are going to monitor the food supply?”
The provider of food is responsible for its safety, Guffey said.
“By the board passing it, you say it is OK,” she said. “Who is going to be responsible in case somebody gets sick?”
Guffey said she researched the question of responsibility for food safety before coming to the meeting.
“According to the CDC and the Department of Agriculture, and I talked with local health departments too, the one approving that the boxes go in would be responsible if somebody gets sick,” she said. “I talked to a couple of lawyers. You’ve got your city attorney. I think you need to look at that also.”
Johnson said free food is readily available for those in need.
“We are open five days a week. We supply food to anybody in Franklin, Jefferson and St. Louis County,” she noted. “They don’t have to be just in the Meramec Valley School District. All they have to do is come in and show a driver’s license or some sort of ID and they can get food.”
Guffey said Agape House does not require people wanting food to fill out papers.
“Anybody is allowed to come in and get food,” she said. “We serviced over 1,100 people last month. They are allowed to come every two weeks.”
At the senior center, Guffey noted lunches are given to seniors and to anybody who needs a lunch.
“So we have those two,” she said. “I know I’ve been inspected. I know everything is good.”
Alderman Carol Johnson supported Guffey’s position, saying the community does a fine job of providing food and anyone reading the paper recently knows that donations are down.
“Not that I want to turn away any organization that comes to our town, but we have adequate facilities that can provide food to our people,” Johnson said. “This is not the type of program that we want to at this time set up.”
No action was taken to approve or deny the food boxes.