A court just said it's legal to share food with homeless people. But why was it even an issue?

It’s hard to imagine a world where it’s illegal to hand a homeless person a sandwich, but that was the case in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In 2014, the city enacted an ordinance which made it illegal for people to share food in public parks without obtaining a “conditional use permit” and complying with the city’s social service regulations for “outdoor food food distribution centers.”

The ordinance was part of a set of laws to combat homelessness and, evidently, human decency.


The same year, two ministers and a 90-year-old man were arrested trying to share food with the homeless.

The next year, the “don’t feed the homeless” law was challenged by Food Not Bombs, who sued the city claiming the law violated its First Amendment rights.

Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer group that shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry. There are around 500 chapters of the group in the U.S. and over 1,000 worldwide. T

he group believes that military spending should be redirected to help human needs such as hunger.

On Wednesday, August 22, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the side of Food Not Bombs, and humanity in-general, saying that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment."

Writing for the court, Judge Adalberto Jordan noted that physical actions, such was sitting or walking aren’t usually “expressive conduct,” but in certain circumstances, such as a picket line or sit-in, they definitely convey a message.

The appellate court’s opinion stood firmly on the belief that sharing a meal is one of the oldest forms of human expression:

“The significance of sharing meals with others dates back millennia. The Bible recounts that Jesus shared meals with tax collectors and sinners to demonstrate that they were not outcasts in his eyes. See Mark 2:13–17; Luke 5:29–32. In 1621, Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated the harvest by sharing the First Thanksgiving in Plymouth. President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, proclaiming it as a day of ‘Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father’ in recognition of blessings.”

“We are very pleased with this ruling, and we look forward to continuing our community organizing in Fort Lauderdale,” Nathan Pim, a member of Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs and a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement. “We hope we are one step closer to something we've fought for over many years—simply being able to help people without being threatened with arrest by people who should be working with us.”

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But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.