|Kugel: Too much salt and fat for homeless?|
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.”