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A recently passed New Jersey law strengthens that state’s Good Samaritan Law—modeled after a largely toothless federal law of the same name—by permitting “universities to donate food to charitable organizations without fear of lawsuit[s]” over unintended food contamination. A similar law was passed recently in Nunavut, Canada. And Louisiana legislators have promised action after state health officials destroyed more than a thousand pounds of venison donated by hunters that would have been used to feed the hungry in the state.
But not everyone who claims to care about the homeless and less fortunate supports such changes.
Mark Horvath, who posts short films of the homeless at his website, urged “regulation on public feeding to homeless people” in a recent Huffington Post column, calling such donations “a heath and public safety issue!”
How can he justify his stance?
“For me,” writes Horvath, “it’s important that the food I buy in a grocery store is inspected.” As an example of what can happen if individuals are permitted to share uninspected food with the homeless, Horvath cites a story he says he heard years before “about a few college kids going around putting feces in sandwiches and giving them out to homeless people.”
Perhaps Horvath might change his mind if he knew that virtually none of the food he buys in a grocery store is inspected.
“In 2011,” reports Bloomberg News, “the FDA inspected 6 percent of domestic food producers and just 0.4 percent of importers.”
And those infinitesimal inspection figures represent one-time visits to individual producers—rather than inspections of individual products.
What’s more, tampered-food stories like the one he shared are most often hoaxes.
Even if Horvath’s shit sandwich example is true—and he presents no evidence it is—monstrous people who would tamper with food (whether donated or otherwise) already rightly face severe criminal and civil penalties.
On at least one issue, it appears Horvath and I agree.
“[H]omeless people should be treated like everyone else,” he writes.
That’s true. When the Elijahs of the world want to share food with others, the law should treat them—the homeless or the less fortunate—as dignified, suitable donors or recipients of charity. Just like everyone else.