To the Editor:

In the bucolic town of New Milford -- in addition to the charming shops, beautiful Village Green and historic churches -- there are the same problems that afflict most of 21st century America: poverty, homelessness, persistent unemployment.

Fortunately, in our town, there are people who work tirelessly to help those who are less fortunate.

I refer to the good men and women who work -- actually, volunteer is more accurate -- at Loaves & Fishes.

Despite the name, Loaves & Fishes is a non-denominational, not-for-profit organization which -- seven days a week, 365 days a year -- operates a food pantry/soup kitchen.

The folks at Loaves & Fishes prepare, cook and serve free, hot nutritious meals and bag lunches to whoever walks through their doors.

On an average daily basis, the men and women at Loaves & Fishes serve meals to between 20 and 30 people.

Contrary to popular misconception, the patrons or guests at Loaves & Fishes are not only the homeless.

They are not all (or even most) drug or alcohol addicts. They are people who are temporarily unemployed, or under-employed, or on fixed incomes, or simply having a difficult time paying their bills in this modern economy.

One might think the mayor of New Milford would applaud and actively support the efforts of those at Loaves & Fishes.

One might even expect (or hope) to find the mayor helping to prepare, cook and serve meals to her less fortunate constituents.

Sadly, one would be mistaken.

Instead, it appears -- in an effort to spare herself the sight of this problem (and, yes, the poor are often unsightly) -- the mayor has offered what I would call a "modest proposal" worthy of Jonathan Swift (who, in a satirical essay, proposed the impoverished Irish could ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for the rich in England).

The mayor recently proposed Loaves & Fishes vacate its present location in the basement of a former school building next to First Congregational Church by the Village Green, and relocate to Faith Church on Route 7.

This is no short stroll.

From the edge of the Village Green to the entrance of Faith Church is a distance of approximately six miles. That is roughly the distance from 1st Street in lower Manhattan to 123rd Street in Harlem.

Most of the poor and homeless do not own cars. If they do, they could not afford the gas necessitated by a daily round trip of 12 miles.

Many of the patrons at Loaves & Fishes are elderly or in poor health. A 12-mile round trip walk along a busy highway (Route 7) with heavy traffic, no sidewalks and poor (or non-existent) pedestrian lighting would certainly solve the problems of those individuals, since it would almost surely kill them.

There are two possible responses to the problems of poverty and homelessness in America.

The first is to try to help those bearing the weight of those problems by offering job training, access to educational resources, low-cost housing, psychiatric counseling (when needed) and the occasional hot meal and bag lunch.

The second is to pretend the problem does not really exist (not in my town at least), and to force those who bear the weight of those problems six miles down the road.

Come November -- when the mayor may seek re-election -- the good citizens of New Milford can decide which option they prefer.

Between now and November, those citizens can (and should) let the mayor and Town Council know what they think of the mayor's "modest proposal."

Between now and November, those citizens can also donate food -- and help to prepare, cook and serve meals at Loaves & Fishes.

The food pantry is open seven days a week, 365 days a year and their patrons and guests -- also known as your neighbors -- would be grateful to see you.

Neil Silberblatt

New Milford