Daniel Doherty

In the wake of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial decision last week prohibiting private citizens from donating food to homeless shelters, Americans sampled in a new national survey overwhelming oppose laws that would prevent this practice.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of American Adults shows that only nine percent (9%) favor a policy that forbids people from donating food to the homeless in their communities. Most adults (82%) oppose such a ban. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Majorities of Americans across all demographic groups are opposed to such a ban.

Ninety-three percent (93%) of adults say they’ve contributed food to the needy or homeless at some point. Among those Americans, 84% oppose a ban like Bloomberg's, compared to 36% of those who've never given food to the needy or homeless.

As Kate reported last week, Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to enforce new nutritional standards for food has forced government-run homeless shelters in New York City to turn away private donations. For some inexplicable reason – since the government cannot evaluate the nutritional content of a home-cooked meal, for example – Mayor Bloomberg believes its better policy for homeless shelters to refuse these charitable contributions altogether rather than feed their patrons with potentially fatty or unhealthy foods.

While Mayor Bloomberg’s bizarre new policy is designed with the best of intentions (his administration, indeed, is working to promote healthy living through various government initiatives), limiting charitable giving in New York City will inevitably waste provisions that otherwise could have gone to good use. What’s more, and just as important, many religious organizations and private citizens feel they have a moral responsibility to feed the hungry and care for the poor. This policy, in other words, not only prevents good Samaritans from providing meaningful assistance to the less fortunate, but bans a practice that has existed in this country since its founding.

Worse still, perhaps, is how the city government of New York is taking away individual freedoms and choices. The administration, in effect, is tacitly suggesting that the homeless are incapable of making their own decisions – and, therefore, need government bureaucrats to regulate their food intake.

This is not merely bad politics, but bad policy. Simply put, this is an egregious example of government interfering in the lives of American citizens, and as evidenced by the survey, a policy that would be exceedingly difficult to implement anywhere else in the country.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography