New York City (April 20, 2020) — Teach NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union, commended New York City’s Department of Education (“DOE”) today for moving to offer kosher and halal options during all three daily “grab and go” meal pick-ups. The organization also thanked Councilman Mark Tregyer, Chair of the Council’s Education Committee, Councilman Chaim Deutsch, chair of the Council’s Jewish Caucus, Councilman Kalman Yeger, and Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein for their leadership.
“All children need access to food, including religiously observant children,” Councilman Treyger said. “From the beginning of the NYC Department of Education’s (DOE) grab and go food program. I have been asking the DOE to offer kosher and halal meal options to ensure that all of our city’s children have access to food while schools are closed. I’m thrilled that the DOE has finally agreed, and will provide kosher and halal meals, and am grateful for the partnership of Teach NYS in fighting to ensure that all kids have the meals they need to grow and thrive.”
Councilman Deutsch added: “After weeks of urging the Mayor’s office and Commissioner Garcia to implement kosher ‘grab & go’ meals, I am happy that they finally heard our call. There is no reason that kosher-observant New Yorkers should have had to wait weeks longer than the rest of the City to be allowed equal access to our most basic need – food.”
Since the citywide school closures, due to COVID-19, the DOE has been offering free “grab and go” meals for students at pick-up stations throughout the city. But kosher and halal options were not available originally. The DOE made the meals available to adults – including halal options – in early April but did not take action on kosher meals. The DOE’s announcement today that kosher options will now be available during meal pick-ups means that no New Yorker will go hungry during this crisis.
Teach NYS – along with UJA Federation of New York and The Jewish Education Project – began their advocacy for kosher and halal food options upon learning in March that meals for people with religious dietary restrictions were not available during the citywide school closure.
“There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has upended untold numbers of lives,” Assemblyman Eichenstein said. “As children are out of school, it is vitally important to ensure that all kids have food to eat regardless of their religion or dietary needs. Today’s announcement of Kosher food being available in neighborhoods across the city is a great step towards achieving food access equity for all children.”
Said Maury Litwack, executive director of Teach NYS and Teach Coalition, which is the national organization to which Teach NYS belongs: “Pandemics don’t discriminate between religious and secular students. Every child has the right to three healthy meals per day in order to thrive. We are pleased with UJA Federation of New York’s and the Jewish Education Project’s partnership on this issue, and we thank Councilman Treyger, Councilman Deutsch, Councilman Yeger, and Assemblyman Eichenstein for their leadership in City Hall.”
In addition to kosher and halal “grab and go” options for New York City’s nonpublic school students, Teach Coalition’s state teams have successfully advocated for nonpublic schools to be covered in New York City’s allocation of school sanitization resources as well as proposed New Jersey state allocations of school cleaning resources and a new technology device grant program. Teach Coalition has also advocated for kosher options at daily school lunch distribution stations in Florida and for the passage of Pennsylvania’s continuity of supplemental services requirement covering services such as speech/language, remediation and counseling.