Friday, December 01, 2006

Contradictions in Charity

There were two little stories in the last week or two that resonate together, at least between my ears.

First, there's this one from Fairfax, Virginia:
... Officials said this week that a new campaign to enforce the county food code at shelters is aimed at preventing food poisoning among the homeless. But operators of shelters said forcing them to reject donations of sandwiches or casseroles prepared at home or in church kitchens is not in the best interest of their clients because it will make it harder to provide them with healthy, hot meals. Fairfax health officials ban home-cooked meals from shelters

So they're only going to accept donations from licensed kitchens. The reasoning is very, very cautious here: somebody cooking something at home might not have washed their hands, or they might not have used good, fresh ingredients, and it's possible that some food would be contaminated. A homeless person could get a stomach-ache.

Then there's this one.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer had an ordinary little story about how busy the airport was over Thanksgiving. Well, it wasn't really very busy, but you can't let that ruin a good story.

The article ends with this heartwarming note:
Overall, operations at Hopkins were smooth, DeChant said, but there was at least one unexpected hiccup this week.

"In the last two days, we have taken a dozen baked pies," he said.

Pie filling apparently is banned from carry-on luggage, too. But the pies didn't go to waste. They were taken to the airport's United Service Organizations lounge, where soldiers passing through can relax and eat. No glitches, headaches to report at Hopkins

It's nice that the soldiers get some good, home-cooked pies.

But, people, think about this -- why did they confiscate those pies in the first place? Wasn't it because they suspected there were chemicals -- poison or explosives or something -- in the pies?

And they're giving that to our soldiers? Poisoned pies?

I know, I know, everybody knows those pies are safe. Nobody's going to bring an exploding pie on an airplane over Thanksgiving.

So why do they take them away in the first place? Really. Does anybody have an answer to that one?

You can't feed the homeless without a license, but TSA feeds suspected pie-bombs to American soldiers.

... These are some weird times we live in.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sanity returns to Fairfax County:

Home-Cooked Food Is Back on the Menu
Amid Outrage, County's Ban Vanishes

By Jacqueline L. SalmonWashington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 1, 2006; Page B06

Fire up those ovens! The casserole is back.

The chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors yesterday nixed plans to bar residents from cooking food in home and church kitchens and donating it to homeless shelters. He blamed overzealous county employees for a policy that made Fairfax the subject of nationwide ridicule.

"For goodness sake," Chairman Gerald E. Connolly said yesterday, "the tradition of church suppers -- whether for the homeless or for the congregation -- goes back hundreds of years. We're not going to outlaw that in Fairfax County."

Connolly said that he was unaware that county health officials were cracking down on home-cooked meals prepared in uncertified kitchens and that he "hit the roof" when he first learned of it in a story in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Citing the state's food code, health officials had informed homeless programs and a coalition of nonprofit groups and churches that runs a winter-shelter program that food, including sandwiches, stews and soups, had to be prepared in county-approved commercial kitchens.

Virginia Department of Health regulations require that food served to the public come from certified kitchens, with a few exceptions. "Occasional" dinners hosted by churches, school groups and the like are exempt, according to Virginia law. There also is the "bake sale exemption" that allows groups such as youth sport teams and PTAs to sell homemade baked goods at fundraisers.

Health officials said that while there have been no reported cases of food-borne illnesses among those who consumed home-cooked foods in shelters, few food poisonings are reported to authorities.

Unlike health officials, Connolly contends that the code does not apply to the shelters because they are not commercial operations like restaurants....

December 02, 2006 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Tish said...

The first article I read about this had an interesting comment from one of the organizers of the church-based shelters. He said something to the effect of: these people eat out of dumpsters, but we can't give them food from our homes.

Fortunately, the county supervisors also saw the irony.

December 02, 2006 10:06 AM  
Blogger andrear said...

A co-worker of mine is a friend of the author and the same co-worker's mom works at a shelter that is dependant on church and home-made food. Many people in Fairfax complained and so the rule was changed. Tish, that same line hit me. I cook for a small residential shelter for women-If people couldn't do the cooking in their homes, the time commitment to cook at the shelter(which I have done) would probably keep some people from volunteering. And rhe shelter kitchen has roaches- my house doesn't. Also I know that churches and synagogues and schools often make sandwiches which organizations such as MArtha's Table distribute. I'm sure those are as clean as the food Burger King puts in its dumpster- and healthier!

December 05, 2006 9:11 AM  

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