How many times have you heard government officials say that we need government funding to help the poor? You would think that anyone donating food to homeless shelters would be appreciated by any city government. Not so the city of New York.
For over a decade, Glenn Richter and his wife, Lenore, have led a team of food-delivery volunteers from Ohab Zedek, the Upper West Side Orthodox congregation. They’ve brought freshly cooked, nutrient-rich surplus foods from synagogue events to homeless facilities in the neighborhood. . . . The practice of donating such surplus food to homeless shelters is common among houses of worship in the city.
These food donations are now being regulated by the mayoral task force, the Health Department, and the Department of Homeless Services. In order to be DHS compliant, the donated food must first be checked for serving sizes, salt content, fat and calorie content, and fiber minimums.
These donations don’t cost the city a penny. The food is donated. It’s not dug out of garbage bins. If a restaurant were selling it, you would probably pay top dollar for it. DHS Commissioner Seth 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.”
Give me a break! Give me leftover food from a pot-luck dinner anytime over some lowest-cost “institutional vendor” any day of the week.
Says Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Ohav Zedek, “Jews have been eating chulent [a traditional Jewish stew] and kugel [a noodle casserole] 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.”
Let me tell you what this is really all about. The goal of government is to make people dependent on government. Government doesn’t like competitors, so it uses its ever-expanding authority and power to eliminate any person or agency that might inhibit its ability to be the all inclusive benefactor. It can do this through the power to tax and make laws. The city taxes the people, pays for the food with the confiscated tax dollars, and then claims credit for the handout. Herbert Schlossberg captures the scene for us in his book Idols for Destruction:
Looking to the state for sustenance is [an act of worship]; we rightly learn to expect food from parents, and when we regard the state as the source of physical provision we render to it the obeisance of idolatry. The crowds who had fed on the multiplied loaves and fishes were ready to receive Christ as their ruler, not because of who he was but because of the provision. John Howard Yoder has rightly interpreted that scene: “The distribution of bread moved the crowd to acclaim Jesus as the new Moses, the provider, the Welfare King whom they had been waiting for.”
So in the end, the people receiving the food will say, “Isn’t mayor Bloomberg generous. Look at all the food he gives us. Bless you Mayor. Long love Mayor Bloomberg! Hail Caesar, I mean, Mayor Bloomberg!”