- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scrooge could learn a thing or two from Fairfax County, Va. This holiday season the big-hearted in Northern Virginia will need to obtain health-inspections before they are allowed to donate home-cooked meals to homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The rule applies to grandma’s kitchen and church pantries as much as restaurants and cafeterias. Good will for all men, meet bureaucracy.

Explaining the move, Fairfax officials argue that they are just trying to protect the homeless from food poisoning. In grandma’s casserole? How about a trash-can sandwich?

What’s really happening here is the bureaucratization of charity. County officials have spotted inconsistent application of a law — and they can’t stand it. They see that churches and grandmas are allowed to donate below the regulatory radar, whereas others are not. So, per small minds and hobgoblins and all that, the Gradgrinds in Fairfax want the same rules to apply to everyone.

That’s logically consistent, but unfriendly to spontaneous charity and common sense. The goal of homeless shelters continues to be a simple one: Feeding people who need to be fed. Let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

We’d bet the fastidious health inspectors in Fairfax County don’t even realize the risk to everyday altruism this poses. As some evidence of that, they’ve waived the $60 inspection fee. Funny, but we see massive budget and personnel increases for whichever health-inspection office gets to inspect a few hundred more stovefronts in Tysons, Reston and closer-in environs this winter. Either that or, an even more regrettable outcome, people just won’t bother once they learn that their glad tidings needed to be filed in triplicate several weeks previously.



People who just want to do their part shouldn’t be held back by the march of the nanny state. In the spirit of holiday charity, Fairfax County should reconsider.

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