NY senator presses Agriculture Dept. on providing kosher food to food banks

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand asked the Department of Agriculture about reports of shortages of halal and kosher food at food banks.

“I am deeply concerned by reports of shortages of Kosher and Halal foods available to the many observant individuals and families facing hunger and food insecurity in New York and throughout our country,” Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a letter Monday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Like many New Yorkers, some Orthodox Jewish families struggle to feed their children and must rely on local food banks and community organizations to provide them with nutritious food.”

Vos Is Neiaz, a Jewish news site, quoted a New York kosher soup kitchen director as saying the federal government has failed to provide kosher chickens for 20 weeks.

Gillibrand in 2014 authored language in the Farm Bill that directed the purchase and labeling of kosher and halal foods when it can be bought at equal cost.

“For the many individuals around the country who are only able to eat kosher or halal foods in observance of their religious beliefs and who rely on federal food programs, any shortage in available commodities means their families are at additional risk of malnutrition and hunger,” she said in her letter.

More than 180,000 Jewish children, nearly 45 percent of all Jewish children in New York City, are eligible for provisions from food banks, Gillibrand said. It is not clear how she arrived at the estimate.

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