There’s an increasingly large, increasingly terrible contingent of people who will argue with strangers about tolerance in online comments sections, but are completely unwilling to do anything positive in real life, not even for the causes they supposedly champion. They’re the kind of people who wear pink breast cancer ribbons, but complain when the Race for the Cure 5K is run through their neighborhood. They’re the kind of people who change their profile pictures to mourn any number of tragedies, but are too busy to volunteer in their communities. And they’re the kind of people who would report Shauna Devenport to the Health Department.
For more than 30 years, Devenport has spent an unimaginable number of hours collecting day-old bread, tortillas, and other still-edible items from restaurants and retailers who would’ve thrown them out otherwise. She takes all of it to her Salt Lake City home, and stacks the food neatly in boxes on her front porch where it can be collected by anyone who needs it. She has been doing this so long that she’s known simply as “The Bread Lady,” and her address has long been circulated in the community—or has been included in news coverage of her efforts.
“I think people have a responsibility to help each other out,” Devenport told KUTV. “A lot of people who fall through the cracks come here and they get food for their families.”
Devenport says that helping the less fortunate makes her “feel good,” some of her neighbors are apparently unnerved by the idea that THE POORS might be walking on their sidewalks and —god forbid—leaving crumbs or dropping slices of bread as they carry their necessities away.
At least two people (who asked to remain anonymous, natch) have complained to the Salt Lake County Health Department, expressing their concern about litter or “crime associated” with her activities.
To its credit, the Health Department doesn’t seem concerned with anything she’s doing. “From the regulatory perspective, the short answer is we don’t have any problems with it, so long as it doesn’t cause a health or environmental [issue], which is certainly what we have confirmed the multiple times we’ve been on site,” Dale Keller, Salt Lake County Environmental Health Manager, told the station.
Barbara George, a member of the neighborhood council, said that she believes that the concern is because new people are moving into the area and are unaware of Devenport’s unofficial program. “Their concern is the cleanliness or the clutter of the boxes and the foods,” she said. Read that sentence again: These people are less concerned with whether or not other members of the community will have a meal today; they just don’t like how the boxes of free food are configured on Davenport’s porch. (And if you’re one of the people who ratted the Bread Lady out, here’s today’s reminder that you might want to put some thought into your priorities.)
Despite the NIMBYS calling the authorities because of a few slices of dropped bread (what’s on their agenda tomorrow—reporting the local ducks?), they also have to have no idea what kind of local legend is living down the street. Devenport has been repeatedly honored for her efforts for years. In 2009, the Deseret News covered her role in “[making] the world a better place.” In 2011, the Salt Lake Tribune printed her address, profiled some of the people she helps on a regular basis and said she provides them with a “miracle every day.” And two years later, KSL.com said that Devenport “teaches us how to give back.”
“I think if somebody has a complaint or a question, they should come by and talk with me,” Devenport said of the neighbors who have snitched on her. Or maybe instead of complaining, they could walk over and say thank you.