Bobby Eustace, an 11-year veteran of the FDNY, has been handing out hot, home-cooked meals to relief workers and residents of the storm-torn Breezy Point, Queens, for weeks. But last Sunday, he was met by an unexpected foe: a Department of Health inspector who issued a notice of violation and fine warning to his all-volunteer food-donation outpost.

“He asked if we’d registered with the Department of Health,” said Eustace. “I said no, this was a tailgate food giveaway. He said the mayor’s office sent him down to check on the food dispensaries. I’m dealing with hungry women whose homes are being bulldozed and he wants a license to give her a bowl of chili. I asked him where you got a license to feed hungry people and give out bottles of water during a tragedy.”

The health department, for its part, said the violation notice was a mistake. “inspectors will not be using that form anymore,” said a spokesperson. “Inspectors will only be advising people in storm-affected areas on how they can better serve food without spreading food-borne illnesses.”

Though the city has done some to loosen the bureaucratic reins on food donations in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it appears there’s still some work to do.

(Photo: CSondi/Flickr)