Sunday, July 21, 2013


Wow. I just recently read this article and I'm blown away...

Mayor Bloomberg has outlawed food donations to homeless shelters because their fat, salt, sugar, etc. content can't be monitored.

I'm involved in trying to combat food insufficiency here in Colorado Springs. I don't think I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I run a food pantry at our church and have been doing so for about 8 months now. Every week, we distribute to about 100 people. We're on a shoestring budget, and shopping for our shelves has sure put low-income diets in a different light.

There is no question, no doubt, in my mind that food quality has become a divide in our nation, and there are some serious "haves" and "have nots." A person living on minimum wage in Colorado Springs has about $41 per week to spend on groceries, per working adult. Imagine a single mom with three kids, trying to feed everyone on $41 each week. She can apply for SNAP (food stamps) and that's a pretty decent supplement, to be sure. For a family of 4 the max amount of monthly benefits is about $670. Sounds do-able... but in El Paso county 48% of the people who are food insufficient are not eligible for SNAP.

And that's not even remotely considering the effects of generational poverty or food availability. Many people in urban areas live in what have been called "food deserts", where there is no actual grocery store and the only close sources for food are convenience stores, which sell extremely limited amounts of produce, meats, and other raw materials for healthy diets. The only options are massively overpriced cans of ravioli, soup, tuna, etc. Markups are outrageous, food quality is poor, and unhealthy eating becomes a way of life. Fast forward a generation or two, and you have kids who have never developed a taste for fresh foods because all they know is mac and cheese and ramen.

Trust me, I am all for changing these diets. We're blessed to be receiving a weekly donation of fresh produce from Sprouts Marketplace, and our customers are loving it. I want them to have access to healthy foods, things that will benefit their bodies. I am torn, at times, between needing to stretch our meager budget and wishing for something better for our customers and their families. I truly am. But I know that you can sacrifice a lot on the alter of perfection. I sometimes have to settle for full bellies and empty calories in the battle against hunger. It's a trade-off I accept when I must, trying to buck it every chance I get.

However, this is a different population of the food insufficient. The homeless are a whole separate ball of wax.

People who are homeless are unable to cook for themselves. Making a fire calls unwanted police attention. They have nowhere to store food safely, and must carry everything with them. Canned foods are far too heavy. Soft fruits and vegetables are out in the heat all day, banged around in a backpack and damaged. Things get stolen while you are sleeping, or someone might jump you for your stuff at any time. They rely largely on public feedings for their diet because nothing else works for them. When we started the food pantry, I actually tried to bring the homeless in. We put up fliers in the soup kitchens and the parks. No one came. Finally, I got some feedback through a friend who works with the folks on the street. They were not going to come. Food pantries were "not for us."

So public feedings have a large responsibility, one that doesn't exist for food pantries on the same level. We are not a person's sole source of nutrition.

Public feedings have a duty to provide the best food they can, that's for sure. But their main duty is to provide AS MUCH food as they can. There has to be a balance between the two. Now, if the public feedings in New York City are throwing away food at the end of the day because, gosh and golly, everyone is just too stuffed to eat another bite, then this policy perhaps begins to make some modicum of sense. But if even one person was turned away, or didn't get seconds, or could have walked out with a bagel stuffed in their pocket and had something to munch on the next morning or later that night and they didn't because of this law, then that's shameful.

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