As tough economic times linger, a federal appeals court panel sitting in Atlanta on Thursday considered how far cities may go in regulating how charity groups distribute food to the poor.

At issue in Thursday’s argument before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was a 2006 Orlando ordinance that requires a permit to distribute food to 25 people or more in one of the 42 city parks located in the city’s downtown park district. A lawyer for Orlando suggested that big food drops overload the parks’ garbage cans, while lawyers for the charity organizations have said the city’s rule — which allows them each only two permits a year per park — prevents them from sharing food at a consistent, desirable location.

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