Teach NYS Applauds City Council’s Creation of Kosher and Halal School Lunch Program

(New York, NY) – The newly adopted New York City budget for FY19 will include, for the first time, a program to provide Kosher and Halal meals for students. This program follows a comprehensive advocacy campaign by Teach NYS and its coalition partners.

This new Kosher and Halal lunch program reflects the leadership of the New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Council member Chaim Deutsch who took active roles in guaranteeing that all students, no matter who they are, were a priority in the FY 2019 budget.

For the first time, the City will allocate $1 million in funding for a pilot program to begin expanding the City’s school lunch program to nonpublic schools and public schools with students with dietary requirements.

“One of the Council’s main priorities is to ensure that no student goes hungry. The Council’s $1 million investment in both our public and non-public schools in providing kosher and halal meal options to our Jewish and Muslim students will assure that our students are less likely to go hungry and will make universal free lunch a reality for all. I thank Council member Chaim Deutsch for his leadership as well as Teach NYS for their advocacy on behalf of young New Yorkers,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“It is extremely gratifying to use my position as Chairman of the New York City Council’s Jewish Caucus to help bring the kosher/halal lunch option into both public and non-public schools. I’m grateful for the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson, who ensured that this historic $1 million was included in the City Council’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget, and am appreciative towards the advocates like Teach NYS and the Orthodox Union who helped make this a reality. This is a huge step forward towards ensuring that kosher and halal meals become a universal option for the 1.5 million New York City students in public and non-public schools,” said Council Member Chaim Deutsch.

In September, Mayor DeBlasio announced the start of a universal lunch program for all students in all schools across New York City. The program aimed to provide free and nutritious meals to all students regardless of income or school placement. However, this program did not include those who had religious dietary requirements such as Halal and Kosher foods.

In response to this exclusion, Teach NYS launched an advocacy campaign focused on correcting this inequity. This issue became the core focus of Teach NYS’ New York City legislative agenda this year.

In October, Teach NYS held a rally on the steps of City Hall with community members and elected officials to highlight the lack of Kosher or Halal options for thousands of students. Teach NYS organized a broad coalition of schools and advocates from across the Jewish and Muslim communities to push for inclusion.

In addition to the rally, Teach NYS placed full page ads in major publications, calling for the inclusion of Halal and Kosher lunch, which was featured and reported on by the New York Daily News. Hundreds of parents in the Jewish and Muslim community sent letters and made phone calls to City Hall.

Teach NYS advocates and activists worked with the new leadership of the City Council, including Speaker Corey Johnson and Jewish Caucus Chairman Chaim Deutsch, to create this pilot program.

“We applaud the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson and Council member Chaim Deutsch who lead the charge on this important initiative. They immediately understood the importance of this program and worked tirelessly to fight for our students “said Maury Litwack, Executive Director of Teach NYS, “this initial program will go a long way towards helping all students realize the promise of universal free lunch.”

“Our community is extremely grateful to Speaker Johnson and Council member Chaim Deutsch who worked with us to make this program a reality,” said Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union, “we believe when the City claims its programs serve ‘all students’ we have a responsibility to ensure that no one is left out, this new initiative will begin that process.”