Rally: Free Lunch for All

Jewish and Muslim Leaders, Public Advocate Letitia James and Members of the City Council call on Mayor de Blasio to make ‘Free Lunch for All’ available for ALL students

For Immediate Release:
October 17, 2017

Jacob Adler, OU-Teach NYS
Menashe Shapiro, Shapiro Consulting

City Hall, NYC -Today, Teach-NYS, a project of the Orthodox Union, along with Jewish and Muslim community leaders, students, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Members of the New York City Council rallied on the steps of City Hall to call on Mayor de Blasio to include Jewish and Muslim students in the new “Free Lunch for All” program.

This lunch program, which the Mayor launched in September, currently leaves more than 30,000 students in Jewish and Muslim schools out due to the lack of either a Kosher or Halal culinary option. Teach-NYS has launched a grassroots campaign to hold the Mayor accountable for failing to make his universal free lunch, truly universal and free for all New York City school children.

In addition to Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, the rally was led by Mohammad Razvi Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO) and Sheikh Musa Drammeh, of the Islamic Leadership School.

“We are here today, at City Hall, because our students are not second-class citizens in this City. We are here today because this administration made promises to our community, and the entire city, that Every student, in Every school, in Every community – regardless of what they believe, where they live or where they go to school, would be eligible for the Free Lunch for All program,” said Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “They claim to care about every single child and yet leave out tens of thousands of students, we cannot claim every child is left out when more than 30,000 are unable to participate,” Fagin added.

“Every child deserves the best chance to succeed in school, and that includes a healthy, nutritious lunch,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “I fought for years to establish a universal lunch program for New York’s schoolchildren, but it’s not truly universal if tens of thousands of children have no lunch. DOE must create a food policy that reflects all the needs of our students, especially those that follow strict diets for health or religious reasons.”

“Free lunch for all must be free lunch to all students without the denial or forced compromise to any student’s faith,” said Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Islamic Leadership School.

“Our children cannot learn when they are hungry,” said Councilmember Rafael Espinal. “We should build upon this year’s wonderful announcement of free lunch for all, by making sure that there are Kosher and Halal food options available to students so that they can get the variety and nutrition they need to succeed.”

“The Mayor touts a universal free lunch program that’s supposed to be for all children, except tens of thousands of students across the city today are going without lunch, and going without nutrition, and going without a meal,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich. “It’s discrimination, it’s an injustice.”

“New York City’s universal free school lunch program is a dramatic step forward for the health and well-being of our children. But we must make sure that ALL of our students can benefit, including those with halal or kosher dietary restrictions” added Councilmember Mark Levine. “If done at scale, the City could accomplish this in a cost effective and efficient manner. Let’s make it happen”

“If New York City has a universal free lunch program, then it has to be truly universal. Children of all religious backgrounds should have full access to a healthy lunch that meets their dietary restrictions. We’ll be pushing the Department of Education to get it right,” said Councilmember Helen Rosenthal.

“This is New York City, and we don’t shut out our kids just because they’re kosher or halal,” said Councilmember Rory Lancman, “universal must mean universal, and the City and DOE have to step up for Jewish and Muslim students now.”

For more information, please see:

• OU Teach-NYS: teachadvocacy.org/freelunch; and
• NYDN:  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/education/nyc-free-school-lunch-plan-ripped-not-offering-kosher-foods-article-1.3535036