I've struggled with my own personal response to requests for food, for money, for an acknowledgement of the dignity of the person before me.
The distribution of food on the Parkway, an area famous for its museums (and Rocky's steps) and thereby replete with tourists, is now a hot button issue. The city says it is not worried about its image (it asserts this is unrelated to the opening of the new museum housing the Barnes collection on the Parkway) but about the safety of the food being distributed outdoors and so will require health inspections for kitchens where it is prepared, and they wish to ban outright distribution on the Parkway. Advocates worry that this is too much of a burden and will effectively stop the distribution of food to people in deep need. Other advocates point out that drawing hungry people indoors, to eat at tables, is not only more dignified, but also provides a chance to support them with other social services they may want and need.
On the one hand, is food safety only for those who can afford it? On the other, if the supply of food is restricted, what might the collateral consequences be? In Washington DC a few weeks ago, I watched from the warm confines of a taxi as a well dressed man in a suit tossed a half-eaten pretzel into a trash can on the corner, fished out a few seconds later by a man bundled in a tattered cotton jacket wearing a watch cap. How hungry do you have to be to pull breakfast from an outdoor urban garbage can?
I can see both sides, and don't feel competent to weigh in on the question (though an organization I volunteer with is suggesting that indoor facilities are a better solution). What bothers me most about the debates is the terminology used: "feeding sites."
After my father finished his breakfast, he would turn to the dog and say, "Let's go feed the sheep." He and his beloved Labrador retriever would head to the barn and pull hay and alfalfa from a pile and fill the mangers, feeding the animals. So for me, the use of the word "feeding" saps dignity from the people fed, feeding sites are for animals. Why is it we talk of dining al fresco on Rittenhouse Square, but feedings on the Parkway?