Seek Increase Of Kosher Food In Emergency Food Supply
Concerned that 117,000 Jewish families living in poverty in New York City may not have enough kosher food available at food pantries to meet emergency situations, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand have introduced legislation requiring the USDA to “target, label and track distribution of kosher food to make certain that more meals are directed toward kosher food banks that need it most”.
The lawmakers said their bill would assure that the kosher pantries would get an adequate supply through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Gillibrand has been leading the fight in the Senate in opposing cuts to the food stamp program which allows low-income households, including kosher families, to buy food. Now she and Crowley say they will continue to urge Congress not to tighten its fiscal belt on “the backs of families and children facing a constant struggle against hunger”.
Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) stated, “No one should ever have to struggle to put food on the table, but unfortunately, too many New York families find themselves in that very position. New York’s food banks are on the frontlines of helping our neighbors in need, and we must do all we can to help support and sustain these critical resources. One way is by making it easier for these food banks to provide kosher meals and food items, and our legislation will do just that to help them to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.”
Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) noted, “With food insecurity in New York reaching disturbing, historic highs and food banks facing extreme shortages of kosher meals, many families are at risk of hunger and malnutrition. We must take steps to help the neediest observant families and children get access to nutritious food during these difficult times.”
One Jewish leader, William E. Rapfogel, CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, pointed out that the USDA’s food assistance program is “critical” to many food banks across the country, “but they do not account for the dietary restrictions of many food-insecure individuals who abide by religious dietary laws”.
The individuals in this grouping, Rapfogel said, “have limited access to the food they so desperately need and are entitled to”.
The changes proposed by Crowley and Gillibrand “would greatly increase”, he said, “access to kosher and halal food for Met Council and organizations across the country without causing any additional delays”.
The two lawmakers said that, according to the 2011 Jewish Community Study of New York, over 500,000 poor or near poor people in Jewish households citywide are struggling to get by, including a huge portion of Jewish children living in poverty.