A San Antonio chef who has been feeding the homeless for 10 years has been fined by police and is scheduled to be in court this upcoming June.
Joan Cheever is the founder of Chow Train, a nonprofit organization established in 2005 which is dedicated to providing healthy and nutritious restaurant-quality food for hungry, homeless and needy San Antonio residents.
There has never been an issue in the past until Tuesday evening when the organization was feeding the homeless at Maverick Park. Two bike-patrol officers cited Cheever for transporting and supplying meals from a vehicle that was not her licensed and certified food truck.
The discussion between Cheever, the certified chef and licensed food handler who has appeared on Rachel Ray’s cooking show for her generosity and philanthropic work, and Officer Mike Marrota was released on Texas Public Radio. The permit that Cheever presented to the officer was expired but she claimed that her equipment, food and procedures were all in compliance with city rules and regulations. That did not stop Officer Marrota from issuing a ticket, which carries a potential fine of $2,000.
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From Texas Public Radio:
"Officer Marrota: So you can take it to court and tell the judge exactly what you are telling me.
Cheever: So what’s the citation for?
Officer Marrota: For serving – people – without a permit. You are not allowed to serve. That is the city of San Antonio.
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Cheever: So any Good Samaritan that offers food for people that are in need or are homeless...
Officer Marrota: That’s great. You are a Good Samaritan...
Cheever: No, but…
SAPD Officer Marrota: It’s very nice that you are doing that. However…
Cheever: Do Good Samaritans get tickets in San Antonio?
Officer Marrota: Yes.
Joan Cheever: Really?"
Cheever is currently scheduled to appear before Municipal Court on June 23, but she will use the 1999 Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a defense, arguing that serving food to the hungry and homeless is a free exercise of her inalienable right to her freedom of religion.