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Bloomberg Health Police Turn Away Food from Shelters

• March 21, 2012 11:54 am

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TAI HERNANDEZ: City shelters are turning away food donations for the homeless because, apparently, they don’t come with the nutritional information the city would like it to. This is a new initiative by the mayor.

GREG KELLY: So a number of restaurants turn over food to pantries, and that’s been going on for a long time. The problem here is, apparently, the city is getting involved, saying, nope, you can’t just turn over your leftovers—it has to be of a certain quality. It has to meet certain nutritional guidelines and certain, you know, regarding sodium and fat and things like that. The stuff the mayor has been concerned about. There are critics, however, saying, hey look, isn’t some food better than no food? We’d like to bring Bill De Blasio, the public advocate, into this conversation. Sir, you are aware of this controversy, welcome.

BILL DE BLASIO: Look, this administration sometimes forgets people in community want to help those in need. They started telling parents they couldn’t do bake sales in public schools, they started telling churches and synagogues they couldn’t have the homeless overnight in the facilities for shelter. This is a little bit of the same thing in my point of view. A lot of restaurants want to help; they have a lot of excess food–good food–they want to get to the homeless. I think the concern about health is real, but I’m sure we can do better, find a plan that makes sure we know the ingredients, we know they’re healthy—not tell people who want to help, you can’t help.

HERNANDEZ: One of items they are worried about is peanut butter; there are kids who have peanut allergies that can be pretty serious. What’s wrong with asking restaurants to list what’s in the food?

DE BLASIO: I think that’s right. I think you have a set of restaurants you work with, you make sure they tell you the ingredients of the kind of dishes they’re giving you. That makes sense. But people want to volunteer high quality food to the homeless being told no? That’s going too far.

KELLY: Are they being told no across the board? Or are they kind of where you are, we’ll figure out a plan, figure out a solution, and make sure we’re not just throwing food that might be good to some people but is not necessarily nutritious or good for you.

DE BLASIO: Again, I understand where the administration is coming from, but the central problem is that the administration often forgets, say community, we want you to help, we need you to be part of this community, but here are some ground rules. That would work fine. That’s not the message we received the other day.

Published under: Michael Bloomberg, Video