On August 16, 2019, U.S. District Court Judge William Zloch upheld the City of Fort Lauderdale’s zoning ordinance and park rule restricting food sharing as a “social service” in public parks. Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs and its members, represented by Southern Legal Counsel and lawyers Mara Shlackman and Andrea Costello, challenged the City’s food sharing restrictions for violating their freedom of expression, association, and right to due process. The case was on remand from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which had issued an opinion in favor of Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs that the First Amendment protects outdoor food sharing as “expressive conduct” under the First Amendment.

Lead counsel Kirsten Anderson of Southern Legal Counsel stated, “The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that ‘the significance of sharing food with others dates back millennia.’ Yet the District Court discounts the speech interests at issue here, allowing the City’s regulations to stand despite the fact that they operate to prohibit Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs’ protected expression in all public parks in the City.”    

Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs is affiliated with the international Food Not Bombs Movement and shares food as part of weekly demonstrations in the city’s downtown Stranahan Park, a location where homeless people tend to congregate.

Nathan Pim, on behalf of Fort Lauderdale Food Not Bombs, said, “Obviously we are disappointed with the Court’s decision. We remain committed to sharing food in public places to communicate our message that food is a human right. We are considering our legal options with our attorneys.”

The plaintiffs have 30 days to decide whether to file an appeal of the Court’s decision.