In the early weeks of Occupy LA, the food tent on the north side of City Hall was well-stocked and we heard happy tales of pancakes and vegan bean dishes. Occupiers told us that volunteers would cook or people would drop off huge amounts of prepared food (or stacks of pizza) and that it was a prime example of how the little community took care of all of its members. But when we visited last weekend, volunteers were only giving out water, granola bars, and other packaged snacks, and we saw a lot of hot plates outside of tents. Several people we talked to complained that the county's Department of Public Health had shut down the food service (one person wasn't complaining--she thought it was a good way to get rid of the occupation's freeloaders).
Today, Angelo Bellomo, the DPH's Director of Environmental Health told us that OLA hadn't been prepared to meet the strict guidelines for making food for public distribution (there are more lax standards for preparing food for personal use) and that people preparing food in their personal kitchens couldn't meet the standards either. (Food made in restaurants or other certified kitchens is ok, which is why there was still pizza being handed out last Saturday.)
Bellomo says the organizers are "pretty savvy about food safety risks" and his department worked with them to find a licensed kitchen they could use offsite. He says the occupiers have now found a mission kitchen to work with and have been able to bring in meals (for immediate distribution, of course) for a few days. Occupy LA Food's Twitter says food is just starting back up. They wrote this afternoon: "Hope to reopen #OccupyLA food tent soon. There will be dinner tonight thanks to our team."
Bellomo says the Food Committee at OLA know what it's doing: "they have some very experienced people there."
· Exploring Occupy Los Angeles, the City's Newest Microhood [Curbed LA]