A local lunch lady says she may no longer be able to serve free food to her community due to a law in her town.
For weeks, Angela Prattis has run a free lunch program in the Toby Farms community of Chester Township. As many as 60 children a day receive a free sandwich, fruit and milk during the summer. The program is funded by the state department of education and administered by the archdiocese of Philadelphia which drops off the boxed lunches daily.
Prattis tells NBC10 she was just put on notice by the township however and received a letter telling her that she needs a variance to run the program in the residential area.
“It’s a letter stating, ‘shut it down or face a $600 fine,’” said Prattis.
“Apparently the township has said there was one more hurdle that she had to jump from their point of view,” said Anne Ayella of the Archdiocese. “But from our point of view she’s done everything right.”
“We’re talking about children,” said Prattis. “Children. It’s unbelievable. They’ve never once said anything to me in reference to what to do to be in the right standing with the township.”
NBC10 spoke with Bill Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager, to find out what exactly she’s in violation of.
“Basically the property is in an R3 residential zone,” said Pisarek.
According to the town, Prattis is zoned residential and therefore needs a variance to offer free lunches. Pisarek told NBC10 she can apply for a variance. It costs $1,000 just to apply however.
“We’re not here to go after her, to hurt her, to take money from her or to prevent her from feeding kids that need the food,” said Pisarek.
Angela tells NBC10 she plans to go to the next Chester Township Council meeting to do what is necessary. Until then however, she says she will continue to feed the children of her neighborhood before they go back to school.