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Gannett – NY lawmakers OK food in funeral homes

By Jon Campbell, 6/22

ALBANY — Soon you will be able to have a sandwich or a snack while mourning the loss of a loved one in New York.

State lawmakers passed a bill last week allowing funeral homes to serve non-alcoholic beverages and small food items like sandwiches, baked goods and platters.

If signed by Cuomo, the measure would put an end to New York’s decades-long ban on providing food in funeral homes, which has long been part of state Department of Health regulations.

Funeral home directors and caterers have pushed back against state-level food bans in recent years, even challenging Pennsylvania’s ban in federal court.

In a memo attached to the bill, the measure’s sponsors — Republican Sen. Betty Little of the North Country and Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan — said wakes often run for several hours, leaving attendees searching for refreshments.

“Funeral homes would have the option of being able to provide refreshments on site such as baked goods, water and coffee, which would provide nourishment to sustain the family of the deceased at their time of need,” according to the memo.

As it stands, New York’s ban prohibits all funeral homes from distributing or providing space to prepare any food or beverages to any “friends, relatives, mourners, family, visitors or next of kin of any deceased person” in the facility.
With Cuomo’s approval, the new law would allow funeral homes to maintain space for food preparation, or outside caterers would be allowed to bring their products in.

In addition to snacks, baked goods and sandwiches, the measure would also allow for food at funeral services that are part of a deceased person’s religious beliefs. Alcoholic beverages will remain banned.

The bill would take effect six months after Cuomo signs it.