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Cities Around the Country Banning Private Citizens From Feeding The Homeless

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t just taking aim at super-sized sodas in his quest to impose his vision of a safe and healthy citizenry on the people of New York City. Now his administration has its sights set on “unhealthy” food donations to government-run facilities that serve the city’s homeless. And New York isn’t alone in that effort.

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently began enforcing new nutritional standards for food served at city shelters. Because DHS says it can’t properly assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters must now turn away good Samaritans.

One such charitable source is Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore. Together they have led a team of food-delivery volunteers for over a decade from Ohab Zedek, an Upper West Side Orthodox congregation. For years they have delivered freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. The practice of donating surplus food to homeless shelters is common among a divergent range of faiths throughout the city.

Seth Diamond, the DHS Commissioner, says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. As a result, a new bureaucracy has arisen to dictate serving sizes as well as everything from salt to calorie content. Diamond contends that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules and also tastes good; he asserts the homeless don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.

Glenn Richter’s over ten years of experience suggests otherwise. He says the beneficiaries — many of them senior citizens recovering from drug and alcohol abuse — have always been appreciative of the food he and others bring.

Richer is a former city Housing Authority employee, and his wife spent thirty-five years as a South Bronx public school teacher, so both are not strangers to bureaucracy and poverty. But an exasperated Richter says, “This level of micromanagement is stunning.”

Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohav Zedek said, “Jews have been eating chulent and kugel for a long time, and somehow we’ve managed to live long and healthy lives. All we want to do is to continue sharing these bounties with our neighbors.”

The Bloomberg administration is so obsessed with meddling in how people live that it’s now denying the very best that New York citizens have to deliver. This trend of denying charitable donations of food to the homeless and others can be seen around the country.

Here are just a few more examples:

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has announced a ban on the feeding of large numbers of homeless and hungry people at sites on and near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Mayor Nutter is imposing the ban on all outdoor feedings of large numbers of people on city parkland, including Love Park and the Ben Franklin Parkway, where it is not uncommon for outreach groups to offer free food. Nutter says the feedings lack both sanitary conditions and dignity.

Houston officials have shut down Bobby and Amanda Herring, who have spent more than a year providing food to homeless people in downtown Houston every day. They fed them, left behind no trash, and doled out warm meals peacefully without a single crime being committed, said Bobby Herring. But in spite of this, the city shut down their “Feed a Friend” effort for lack of a permit. And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one. “We don’t really know what they want, we just think that they don’t want us down there feeding people,” said Bobby Herring.

Las Vegas’s homeless population has doubled in the past decade to about 12,000 people in and around the city, but the city has adopted an ordinance limiting the distribution of charitable meals in parks. The Las Vegas ordinance is believed to be the first to explicitly make it an offense to feed “the indigent.”

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