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The City of Seattle says it won’t shut down a popular outdoor meal service for the homeless until it can find a location that would allow meals to be served both outdoors and indoors.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat Wednesday reported that the city planned to close Operation: Sack Lunch at the end of February. Officials said they wanted the meals moved inside and told providers that eating outside was “inhumane, disrespectful and undignified.”

On Thursday, Dannette Smith, director of the city Human Services Department, said that the city would work with  providers over the next six months to open a centralized kitchen.  See her full statement here.

“We will relocate the outdoor meal program only when we know that alternative venues are in place to serve the same number of people who currently are served by the outdoor program. The alternative location must also allow meals to be served outside to those who feel uncomfortable coming inside. Our goal is to provide food to those who need it, no matter where they wish to be served,” Smith said.

Additionally, the department will work to address gaps in meal service in the north and south parts of the city and to bring into the coalition of meal providers people who currently are offering meals in city parks, Smith said.

About 40 churches and social-service organizations contribute food and volunteers to serve meals three times a day at Sixth and Columbia, beneath I-5. The program serves about 3,000 meals a week and more than 156,000 a year, according to city officials.