New York City Bars Food Distribution To The Homeless

From the Department of Stupid Laws:

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s food police have struck again!

Outlawed are food donations to homeless shelters because the city can’t assess their salt, fat and fiber content, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Glenn Richter arrived at a West Side synagogue on Monday to collect surplus bagels — fresh nutritious bagels — to donate to the poor. However, under a new edict from Bloomberg’s food police he can no longer donate the food to city homeless shelters.

It’s the “no bagels for you” edict.

“I can’t give you something that’s a supplement to the food you already have? Sorry that’s wrong,” Richter said.

Richter has been collecting food from places like the Ohav Zedek synagogue and bringing it to homeless shelters for more than 20 years, but recently his donation, including a “cholent” or carrot stew, was turned away because the Bloomberg administration wants to monitor the salt, fat and fiber eaten by the homeless.


But Mayor Bloomberg, a salt-aholic himself, was unapologetic.

“For the things that we run because of all sorts of safety reasons, we just have a policy it is my understanding of not taking donations,” Bloomberg said.

Told that his administration recently enacted the policy, the mayor was Grinch-like.

“If they did in the past they shouldn’t have done it and we shouldn’t have accepted it,” Bloomberg said.

Because that whole “feed the hungry” thing is just so silly, apparently.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JKB says:

    I’ve seen these bans because they couldn’t ensure the sanitation of the preparation kitchen but this is just idiotic.

    And it just goes to show you how off our “hungry” programs are in America. If there was real hunger, we’d ensure the people got food, whatever kind of food. And I’m sure there are some true hungry who will be made to suffer for this bit of intellectual stupidity.

    This reminds me, I wish I could remember his name, but one of the internet millionaires was writing about how to handle retirement at 35 or so. He mentioned charity. But charities didn’t want him to donate his time, just his money. It’s all about the Benjamins with the “non-profits” as it is hard to divide donated time up among the senior officers. No doubt phase two of this plan is a plea for money donations to cover what used to come from the food donations.

  2. @JKB:

    I can understand the desire to ensure that the food donated to a soup kitchen is safe, that goes without saying. But this is ridiculous. Not accepting bagels because they’re too high in salt and fat? Good lord, just idiotic

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    There’s probably more than a single factor involved in this decision. Here’s an example. Some years ago my church attempted to open its own homeless shelter. We couldn’t get a permit from the city. The reason, it turned out, was that the local city councilman wanted his own foundation to open a shelter nearby, channeling city and state money to it, and our shelter would have interfered with his plans.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Here’s another wacky suggestion: maybe they’re concerned about liability. We live in a litigation-crazy age and New York has the highest number of lawyers per capita of any state.

  5. As the saying goes, Cui bono?

  6. ptfe says:

    I’m going to guess she’s either flat-out wrong or is massively distorting the story. Kramer has a history of hyperventilating nutcase non-journalism — for a prime example, see here.

    Note that the article gives almost no information. It consists essentially of some vague comments from an individual on the street whose donations were apparently rejected (nothing too specific, like why the bagels were rejected, what his history is with the actual place he claims to have been donating to, where this synagogue food is coming from [for all we know, it could be lunch leftovers for three rabbis], etc.); links to an article about school lunches and a wholly unrelated article about smoking bans, both tagged with words that imply additional information but are not actually related to the links at all; and some not-so-subtle jabs at the mayor and a couple government agencies. A real journalist would be capable at the very least of explaining what happened, linking to relevant documents, decisions, or commentary, and presenting the information in a meaningful way. Kramer doesn’t manage any of that that, mangles together a few paragraphs of disconnected garbage, and files the story under “The Government Is Killing Our Homeless!”

    Sad, really, that anyone pays or pays attention to Marcia Kramer.

  7. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    You know, the links in the CBS article don’t really add up to what the article is purporting. The “food police” link goes to an article about a study showing salt may not really be that bad for you; the “salt, fat and fiber” link is about regulations governing school lunches, and the “told that” link is about smoking bans. I think someone at CBS is unclear on the concept of sourcing.

  8. Rufus T. Firefly says:


    Dang, I was writing as you were posting. GMTA.

  9. ptfe says:

    @Rufus T. Firefly: They’re almost comically bad. It’s like she searched her home site’s archives for “food nutrition ban” and picked the first three links that popped up as source material.

    Another very recent article about the same guy (Glenn Richter), presumably regarding the same incident — available here — indicates that the rejected food was leftovers from a bar mitvah. In my experience, it’s rare that shelters will accept random cooked leftovers from a private event unless they have a prior arrangement; the only surprise to me is that government-run shelters accepted any of these donations in the last 30 years, given the potential for litigation related to tainted foods.

  10. Rufus T. Firefly says:


    Yep, it’s yet another reminder to check the BS meter before engaging the Outrage pump.

  11. Franklin says:

    This reminds me of how my mother’s church can’t re-distribute used toys due to the inability to test every one for lead. Although it’s true that I wouldn’t want poor kids to get lead poisoning or non-nutritious food, this seems to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Probably well over 90% of toys are fine, and even a lot of crappy food has some nutrients in it.

  12. James H says:

    Bloomberg’s rule is stupid. But there IS a legitimate beef to be had with some donations. A number of entities donate food as a way to get rid of excess inventory … which has led, at times, to spoiled food being donated to shelters.

    Outlawing donating of spoilage, I think, would be a good idea. This is just moronic.

  13. Moderate Mom says:

    For years, one of our local non-profits that houses the homeless, accepted donations from restaurants and caterers of leftover food. It was picked up immediately and then refriderated until used, and provided much needed additional food. Then the Health Department swooped in and said such donations were no longer acceptable. Funny, since the restaurants and catering companies that were donating were also in business under the auspices of Health Department approval. Stupid bureaucrats.

  14. I live in a fairly affluent California beach city (the poor end, myself), and up the road in a neighboring city we have a kitchen for the homeless. These are hard times. I see many more homeless up the hill and down in our parks. There have been conflicts with some of my neighbors.

    My neighbors call the kitchen “the bird feeder” and want it closed.

    I just get sad and think how broken it all is.

    And, when I hear this story, I wonder if someone in NY wants to close the bird feeders.

  15. Racehorse says:

    Our local arenas donate left over food (hot dogs, sandwiches, etc) to homeless shelters.
    No problems here .

  16. Honestly, I thought at first this was a parody post, not a serious news item. I mean, this is what we’d expect to see in The Onion. But holy cow, this is for real,. We are talking about Bloomberg, after all.

    As Gerard Vanderleun wrote, “I try to get more cynical every day, but I just can’t keep up.”