Thinking of giving food to the homeless this Thanksgiving? Well, if you’re in New York City, that food had better comply with new nutrition standards issued by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Health Department.

As of October 31, shelters, soup kitchens, and the like are barred from accepting food donations unless packaged and bearing nutrition data. That, according to a recent report at, effectively means an end to the tons of free meals previously provided by the likes of Glenn Richter, who has collected surplus food from synagogues to share with the poor for some 20 years.

The new rules require that meals and snacks served to the needy be prepared in compliance with precise nutrition standards laid out by government bureaucrats.

Consequently, shelters are unable to accept food donations that are not prepackaged, because it is nearly impossible to know the exact nutritional content of such foods. This means that restaurants, churches, and community groups can no longer easily give surplus or prepared food to those who need it most.

The rules also bar all donations of candy or sugar-sweetened beverages. Heaven forbid that a homeless child should enjoy a free treat.

Beyond being merely ridiculous, the philanthropy prohibition is all too revealing of the Nanny State mindset, i.e., only government can properly provide for the needy. That is far more damaging to the health of the nation than a free bagel or candy bar now and then.

Kaitlyn Evans is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: