Charity-Based Food Pantries Limit Services in Order to Cope With Demand

Gradually feeling the effects a $7 billion decline in government food aid for the hungry, many charities and nonprofit food banks have resorted to creating strict eligibility rules in order to cope with the increasing demand for their services, the New York Times reports.

A poll of 216 food pantries in New York City revealed that 63 percent restrict how much of and how frequently their resources and services can be utilized. Hunger experts note, however, that food from one program often isn't enough to sustain a needy individual.

"What's worrisome is that some of the people who are in most need are simply not able to play by all these rules," noted Amy Brown, a researcher with the Community Food Resource Center in New York.

Other experts note that as charities are increasingly pressed to pick up the slack caused by cuts in government social services, making rules becomes a necessary component of their operations.

"In any business solution is embedded the next problem," said Noel Tichy, a professor of business at the University of Michigan who advises both corporations and nonprofits. "You run a risk of creating a bureaucracy which becomes less human, less in touch with what the vision of these agencies was. On the other hand, you have little alternative."

Nina Bernstein. "Charity Begins at the Rule Book" New York Times 12/24/2000.