New York is a wonderful city full of wonderful juxtapositions. And by wonderful I mean kind of awful sometimes. Case in point; New York City Mayor Bloomberg has banned food donations to homeless shelters. This isn’t actually a poorly timed policy choice but actually a move made this past March. What is the rationale for such a move? According to the report, it is because food donated often does not meet nutritional standards.
This is in a country where pizza is considered a vegetable.This is not about health it is about policing the poor in New York. A practice that has only increased under Mayor Bloomberg’s administration.
Here is why this is a terrible idea, by penalizing really poor people because other poor people can’t afford to give away canned Amy’s Organic cream of mushroom soup, you are not solving the problem of hunger and homelessness. The problem is not what people are donating, it is the very fact that we have such a discrepancy in nutritious options in this city. If Mayor Bloomberg wants to help the poor in this city get healthy, attempting to starve them is the most counterintuitive move.
Instead of telling me I cannot buy soda with my food stamps, lets work to make it so that I can afford to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s been well documented that this city has a food justice problem. There are too many areas in this city where you can buy large amounts of empty calories and none of the opposite. Where fast food chains populate streets and grocery stores sell wilted iceberg lettuce. These areas are predominantly populated with poor people. It is not about what you choose, rather what are your choices.
The visibility of the poor in NYC is something that is actively suppressed. There also is a very real problem in this city of trying to erase any notion of the poor and homeless. On the trains you often hear automated announcements instructing riders to not give food or money to people begging on the trains, since it is illegal for them to do so. We are supposed to ignore the needs of those literally begging for help and go on as though they are not even there.
But not if you’re a massive bank asking for a bailout then you can have billions without so much as fiscal oversight or accountability.
If we really want the homeless population to eat healthy, make healthier foods more accessible to all. Also, try not to deny the fact that there is a homeless population, or assume that shelters are a “pleasurable experience”. That would really help. We need to hold Mayor Bloomberg accountable to all New Yorkers, not just the wealthy ones; to the New Yorkers who are getting priced out of their apartments due to gentrification, getting priced out of education due to tuition hikes at CUNY, and the New Yorkers getting priced out of the transportation system due to fare hikes. This is only a symptom of the larger issue of billionaire Mayor Bloomberg only really looking out for corporate interests and not those of the people he was elected to serve.