Nanny State Run Amuck: Bloomberg Bans Food Donations in New York City
Food Might Be Salty or Too High in Calories, City Explains
Washington, D.C. - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration is now banning all food being offered to the city's homeless shelters. New York City's bureaucrats have become so singularly focused on what people eat, says the National Center for Public Policy Research, that they've lost their common sense.
"So much for serving the homeless: The Bloomberg administration is now taking the term 'food police' to new depths, blocking food donations to all government-run facilities that serve the city's homeless," writes Jeff Stier, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Risk Analysis Division, in an op-ed in Monday's New York Post.
"In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services has recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can't assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans," writes Stier.
New York City DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond told the National Center's Stier that the complete ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg's emphasis on "improving nutrition for all New Yorkers."
As Stier writes, "A new inter-agency document controls what can be served at facilities -- dictating serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and condiment recommendations."
"Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn't too salty, " writes Stier. "So, according to the commissioner, the homeless really don't need any donated food."
Stier's research reveals that there's more to the story.
"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," explains Stier. " The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city," he writes in the op-ed.
Mr. Richter's experience suggests Commissioner Diamond and the Bloomberg administration are out of touch.
"[Glenn Richter] says 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 from community members warms their hearts, not just their stomachs," writes Stier.
"So you can imagine Richter's consternation last month when employees at a local shelter turned away food he brought from a bar-mitzvah," says Stier in the piece.
Richter, Stier writes, "is a former city Housing Authority employee, while his wife spent 35 years as a South Bronx public school teacher, so they're no strangers to bureaucracy and poverty. But an exasperated Richter says, 'this level of micromanagement is stunning.'"
Stier is an expert on how the nanny state is undermining the credibility of the public health community. Among his many articles: "The Happy Meal Ban Flops" for National Review Online, "Obama Healthcare: Government, Heal Thyself" for the Los Angeles Times, and "Regulating Junk Food Advertising" for Townhall.com.
The National Center For Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org) is a conservative, free-market, non-profit think-tank established in 1982. It is supported by the voluntary gifts of over 100,000 individual recent supporters, receiving about one percent of its revenue from corporate sources. Contributions to it are tax-deductible.