A woman may be fined $600 for each day she provided free food to children in a poor Philadelphia neighborhood for the past few months.
Angela Prattis, 41, of Chester Township has been distributing free healthy lunches in a neighborhood that has a per capita income of $19,000 a year.
Prattis made no money from the meal distribution, and gave out food provided by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The “lunch lady” ran the charity out of her garage, to which about 60 children came, five days a week.
After the city council was alerted of the free lunches, it ruled that she would have to acquire a variance to give away food next summer – or pay a fine of $600 a day. The council considers Prattis’ deed a zoning violation. Three months of distributing food would instigate a fine of more than $50,000.
“It’s not like I’m selling food,” she objected.
“These kids are hungry. I’m not tearing down the community. I’m keeping the children out of harm’s way,” she said in a Fox News interview.
But a variance to distribute food would also be costly. Administrative fees for a variance would cost up to $1,000.
“You have houses here. The roofs are falling in, and they could be focused on a lot more serious issues than me feeding children,” Prattis said in response to the city council’s ruling.
The woman has three children of her own, takes care of a foster child and runs a neighborhood basketball program .
The township intitally threatened Prattis with fines for this summer’s food distribution, but withdrew them after news organizations began asking questions. Now, the township is allowing the woman to keep distributing food cost-free until August 24 – but next summer will be a lot more costly. Prattis told local news crews that she will continue helping her community.
“Tell me this program isn’t needed,” she said.