Soup kitchen as “retail food establishment”

In Morristown, N.J., the city’s decision to reclassify a church-sponsored soup kitchen as a “retail food establishment” is expected to drive up the kitchen’s operating costs by at least $150,000 a year, in part by prohibiting volunteers from bringing in home-prepared food or even aprons. [William McGurn, Wall Street Journal] We’ve covered the issue periodically over the years.


  • We’re the government. We are here to help you. If we can’t help you, no one else will be allowed to. Shut up and eat your cake.

  • I don’t see the problem. It’s a business transaction: you listen to our tedious marketing message (invisible friend in the sky, eternal salvation/damnation, et cetera), we give you some “free” grub.

    Should be regulated just like any other business.

  • Americans were traditionally a self-reliant people – they did things for themselves, and when co-operative action was called for, they organized themselves to get the job done without involving the authorities (think of community barn-raisings, private charities to help the needy, local groups to raise money to fund a school or a library, etc.). But today the authorities are doing what they can to stamp out this spirit because they want everyone to be in a state of dependency on the government, and they want nothing to be outside the scope of their control. Actions like reclassifying a church soup kitchen as a retail food establishment are a part of this pattern.

  • Can’t let those darn private charity folks compete with the Government. Best shut ’em down.

  • DC’s been doing this for at least 10 years. Whether it’s food providers for the charitable Flower Mart at the National Cathedral or lunches for the elderly, the bureaucrats are insisting on commercial kitchens, certified food handlers, and refrigeration equipment far beyond the reach of even registered 301.c charitable groups.

  • This is how governments “compete”.

    They don’t try to get better. They just use their powers to destroy their competition.

  • “you listen to our tedious marketing message”

    No one is required to listen to the message that some food kitchens promote. The food is not “free”, it is free. There is no business transaction

    I acknowledge that some people feel that they are somehow taken advantage of by having to sit in a room with a poster on the wall that says “God is great” or “Free Memphis 3”.

  • […] Walter Olson: Soup kitchen as “retail food establishment” […]

  • Should be regulated just like any other business.

    Absolutely wrong. There is no transaction for services. No money is exchanged, and no contract for performance of any sort is implied or given for such an exchange. In most all cases, you (I guess the consumer of the food service) are free to ignore or accept the message that comes with the meal. Note, too that the message isn’t always religious in nature.
    In short, this is what charities do, and it is one hell of a lot more than you or I, as keyboard warriors are doing.

    I’m an athiest, and I wholeheartedly support Salvation Army and Father Joe Carroll. They do some pretty heavy lifting, and I will scream bloody murder if the city of San Diego decides to screw with them this way.


  • Maximus, How many homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries have you actually been to? I’m not nearly as much of a volunteer as I could and should be as those things go, but I can think of 5 such places I’ve volunteered off the top of my head, all religiously affiliated, and not a single one actually proselytized in any active way. At worst, maybe you’d have to look at a cross on a wall.

    If you’d get off your keyboard and actually volunteer at one for even a night or two, you would know this.

  • What difference would being free make? All people should have wholesome safe food.

    The problem is that citizens terribly overvalue inspections. Restaurants would go out of business if they routinely sickened their patrons. Thank economic truism protects us more that guys who count mouse droppings.

    We had the ridiculous reaction to fish from the gulf during the unfortunate blowout. Oil floats on the surface; fish swim beneath the surface; yet we had elaborate inspections of the fish. Apparently everybody was left behind by American education.