Friday, November 09, 2012

In the Middle of Post Storm Crisis, NY's Mayor Bans Food Donations to Homeless Shelters

 I couldn't resist posting about this-- under the rule that political posts related to urban issues are a big part of what this blog is about. Also, this is an extreme example of policies that exist in other cities.

From The New York Post

"For over a decade, Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore, have led a team of food-delivery volunteers from Ohab Zedek, the Upper West Side Orthodox congregation
They’ve brought freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. (Disclosure: I know the food is so tasty because I’ve eaten it — I’m an OZ member.) The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city."
The city may no longer accept this food which might not meet safety standards or the city's strict new guidelines limiting portions, salt, fat content and nutrition.

What's involved here is of course something much more important, the right of both donors and recipients to share a sense of community.
"The beneficiaries — many of them senior citizens recovering from drug and alcohol abuse — have always been appreciative of the treats he and other OZ members bring. It’s not just that the donations offer an enjoyable addition to the “official” low-salt fare; knowing that the food comes from volunteers and community members warms their hearts, not just their stomachs.So you can imagine Richter’s consternation last month when employees at a local shelter turned away food he brought from a bar mitzvah. "
The danger is also that breaking the bonds and ability to provide private charity undermines the basic safety net -- which ultimately has to go beyond government. As many city neighborhoods endured 5 or more days without power the city was held together by private networks and neighbors helping each other far more than official aid.

A growing number of cities have made it illegal to distribute food to the homeless.
"In Philadelphia — where the ACLU launched a lawsuit last week attacking the ban on the outdoor feeding of homeless people, enacted June 1 — the plaintiffs in the suit include Chosen 300 Ministries Inc., the Rev. Brian Jenkins, the Welcome Church, the Rev. Violet Little, the King’s Jubilee, the Rev. Cranford Coulter and others, according to the Pennsylvania Record.
“Food sharing programs for the homeless also express an important message about the desperate circumstances of the poor,” the suit says, according to the Record. “The programs have been hugely successful, furthering the religious mission of the plaintiffs and providing, at no cost to the city, a needed social service. The programs have functioned continuously without significant interference by government officials or adverse effect on the public interest""ybe he’s just anti-food? Maybe put this one to a vote — it’s hard to imagine what harm fresh soup and bagels (two items that have already been turned away) could do to a hungry person"

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