By Dave Tombers
New York City homeless shelters have Mayor Michael Bloomberg to thank for a halt in food donations, for which hungry families are waiting, according to one public policy advocate.
“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,” says Jeff Stier, a National Center for Public Policy Research senior fellow.
Currently, no food can be given to government-run, New York City facilities, despite hungry crowds perfectly willing to receive it, he said.
Stier exposed the restrictions in a New York Post column under the headline “Mike’s homeless-gift ban,” referring to Bloomberg’s policy against shelters receiving food donations of any kind.
He wrote, the city “can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food,” so “shelters have to turn away good Samaritans,” citing a conversation with New York City Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond.
Despite efforts of local churches and synagogues to deliver food, quite successfully until recently, to the city’s food shelves, the practice must now stop.
Stier told WND that Diamond identified a healthy food initiative as the driving force behind the policy.
“DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A new interagency 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,” says the article.
WND was told by Bloomberg’s office that the restriction on food donations is nothing new and not tied to any nutritional effort by the mayor.
“The Post article is correct that city shelters can receive no food donations of any kind, but it is inaccurate to say that this is a new policy,” a press spokesman said.
“It has always been the policy, but one shelter, mentioned in the Post article, may not have been enforcing the policy until recently,” the mayor’s office statement continued.
When asked where food for the hungry comes from, the spokesman said, “The city hires a vendor to purchase, prepare and serve food at the shelters.”
The mayor’s office wouldn’t compare the vendor to a caterer, saying, “I’ll have to refer you to DHS for the particulars.”
The Department of Homeless Services didn’t return WND calls.
Stier told WND that he specifically was told by Diamond that the policy was tied to the nutritional guidelines set by the mayor.
“They can say that this ban on donations is a long-standing policy, but they can’t document it,” Stier told WND.
“I’ve also been told that there are numerous food shelves that have been accepting food donations, not just one.”
Stier is a member of a New York Synagogue that has donated food for over a decade. He is outraged that the DHS’ response to his demand to know why the practice can no longer continue was, “The homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.”
Stier said that there’s more to providing food for the needy in the city than just dropping off leftovers.
“It really warms the heart of struggling individuals to know that someone thought of them when preparing extra food,” he said.
“It also feels good to give a warm meal,” said Stier.
“The mayor’s policy demands taxpayer money, to pay a vendor, without the benefit of the good feelings behind giving or receiving it.”
WND located a private charity in New York that is unaffected by the ban on donated food. In fact, it thrives because of food donations.
New York City Rescue Mission has been providing food, clothing, shelter and spiritual hope for needy New Yorkers since 1872.
“We feed over 500 people a day, all through donations,” said James Varnhagen, NYCRM director.
“Boxed food, canned food, prepared food, we take any food,” he told WND.
“We couldn’t survive without donations,” he said.