Thursday, March 22, 2012

New York City to Homeless: No More Kugel For You!

Kugel: Too much salt and fat for homeless?
For more than a decade, volunteers from Ohab Zedek, an Orthodox shul on New York City's Upper West Side, have been delivering kugel, gefilte fish, pastries, and other surplus food from Bar Mitzvahs and synagogue functions to the city's homeless.

The team, led by Glenn and Lenore Richter, has donated freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood, a common practice among houses of worship in the city. No more, says the city's Department of Homeless Services (DHS), working with the Health Department and a mayoral task force. Why? The city's regulators are trying to enforce new nutritional rules including salt and fat content.

Writing in the New York Post this week, Jeff Stier reports:
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.
The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.
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. So, says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the synagogue’s food.
Glenn Richter’s experience suggests otherwise. He 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 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.
He’s a former city Housing Authority employee, and 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.”
Says Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohav Zedek, “Jews have been eating chulent and kugel for a long time, and somehow we’ve managed to live long and healthy lives. All we want to do is to continue sharing these bounties with our neighbors.”


  1. Well EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME! Okay, Let them eat cake,then! LOL------M.A.

  2. Tell Bloomberg to get a life.

  3. "knowing that the food comes from volunteers and community members warms their hearts, not just their stomachs."

    I couldn't agree more!
    Am Yisroel Chai - They may try to stop us from doing Chessed but will not succeed!!