As communities work to address issues of homelessness, many individuals or groups seek to help on a personal level. Some wish to offer food to those experiencing homelessness or who are otherwise in need, prompting questions of safety and food service permitting. Clark County Public Health (CCPH) is charged with protecting the health of all residents of and visitors to Clark County. Use the information below as guidance for groups or individuals who wish to provide food to people experiencing homelessness or food insecurity.
Public health considerations
- Homelessness is a public health issue needing comprehensive and compassionate solutions;
- Public health issues related to homelessness include: food safety, solid waste, proper human waste disposal, proper hazardous material disposal, safe drinking water, adverse childhood experiences, proper nutrition, infectious diseases prevention, and others;
- Everyone, including individuals experiencing homelessness, is entitled to food prepared and stored safely in a sanitary environment;
- Individuals experiencing homelessness often have preexisting medical conditions and/or lack the ability to maintain proper health habits including getting adequate sleep and nutrition, and may be more susceptible to a foodborne illness.
Options for individuals or groups without registering as a Donated Food Distribution Organization:
- You can share the following foods:
- Whole, uncut produce.
- Dry goods
- Canned goods
- Commercially packaged food that does not need refrigeration.
- You can volunteer with or donate food to an existing Donated Food Distribution Organization.
- You can offer foods that are exempt from permit. You must notify us but the review is free. Information about foods that can be offered without a permit can be found on our Exempt from Permit webpage.
You need to become approved as a Donated Food Distribution Organization (DFDO) when offering any of the following items:
- Cut or prepared produce
- Unpackaged, ready – to – eat food
- Food requiring refrigeration
- Foods requiring cooking, heating, or hot holding
- Foods that have been or will be cooled
These foods pose a greater risk of foodborne illness if they are not stored and served at proper temperatures.
Designation as a DFDO requires recognition as 501(c) organization. A plan review and permit from our office is also required but these are completed free of charge. With designation as a DFDO and established oversight of some food safety criteria, safe foods can be offered to the community without paying plan review or permit fees.
DFDOs are required to provide an annual update of their food service operation.