NYC Mayor Bloomberg bans food donations to homeless shelters (Update)
posted at 3:29 pm on March 20, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
In a perverse variation on the magnanimous expression “Your money’s no good here,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has adopted a new policy that might be encapsulated as “Your donation’s no good here”—except he means it.
The watchdog group My Food. My Choice! explains:
[T]he [Bloomberg] administration is now forbidding you from donating food to government-run homeless shelters because he has to monitor the salt, fat, and calorie content of the food being served.
A mayoral task force and the Department of Homeless Services have joined forces to go beyond just dictating the nutritional standards at the city’s shelters.
Well, isn’t that special? The man who decreed that your sodium intake is his business and who spends a quarter million dollars of taxpayers’ money on three personal chefs is now refusing to allow good-hearted New Yorkers to help out their homeless brethren. His reason? Their edible donations may not stack up to his high standards of nutrition and food safety.
So how is his food safety initiative working out? That would be his system of assigning a letter grade to New York restaurants based on violation points assigned by his crack team of health inspectors. The program, which was launched in 2010, requires eating establishments to display their letter grade in a prominent location on the façade.
What does a restaurant need to do to earn an “A”? Judging from three branches of the coffee chain Starbucks that made the grade, contamination with fecal organisms is a good start. An investigation by the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center revealed that the establishments tested positive for Enterococcus, fecal strep, E. coli, and Klebsiella.
An article in the New York Post quotes DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond as explaining that the ban on food donations “is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers.” But the article’s author, Jeff Stier, wonders whether “the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.”
With friends like Bloomie, another saying goes, who needs enemies?
UPDATE (3-20, 7:20 p.m.): I received an email from Samantha Levine, Deputy Press Secretary for the Office of the Mayor, that states:
[C]ontrary to NY Post column that ran yesterday, there is no NEW policy (nor has there a change in policy) around food donations to NYC homeless shelters. The Department of Homeless Services actually NEVER took donations: the shelter system is very heavily regulated—even beyond the City’s nutritional guidelines—with specific requirements around food handling and serving that leave little room for donations.
I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel much better.
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