WASHINGTON, D.C. (TIP): U.S. Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), on September 29, called on U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack to ensure equitable distribution of the recently announced $2 billion in additional funding for food banks and school meal programs to include kosher and halal food providers.
“Food insecurity has only continued to grow as our nation battles the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruption, and rising prices,” said Congresswoman Meng. “I applaud the Department of Agriculture for providing funds that help people across the country ease their burden when it comes to accessing food. However, we cannot forget to include groups that have culturally and religiously sensitive dietary options when allocating these funds, and creating these programs. Making sure kosher and halal food banks are included in the allocation of funds is critical to millions of Americans being able to put food on the table for themselves and their families. I look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack and the Department to ensure that no American goes hungry.”
“Food insecurity respects no religious or cultural categories, and the pandemic-fueled supply chain and inflation factors that exacerbate it are inflicting pain on kitchen tables and food pantries across every community. So, it is critical that our federal feeding programs are equitable and accessible for everyone, including those with cultural or religious mandated dietary restrictions,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. “I look forward to working with Secretary Vilsack as he distributes this new funding, to ensure the money is equitably distributed to food banks that provide kosher and halal food to their communities, and that the training and best practices for securing, storing and transporting these vital food stuffs reach the nutritional lifelines in our communities.” “Thank you, Reps. Meng, Wasserman Schultz, and McGovern, for keeping the focus on Kosher and Halal food. The USDA has done a lot but more still needs to be done on food equity,” said Alexander Rapaport, Executive Director of the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network. “South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) was one of the first to offer culturally palatable food. There is a huge need for halal, kosher, and vegetarian food for many of our community members, and for overall nutrition and health. We are grateful to Congresswomen Meng and Wasserman Schultz for leading the charge on this need,” said Sudha Acharya, Executive Director of South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS).
“With rising prices, supply chain issues and an ongoing pandemic, too many New Yorkers are still struggling with food insecurity. Sadly, for too long, Kosher and Halal food have not gotten a fair share of emergency federal food funding, leaving hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers left out,” said David Greenfield, Met Council CEO. “Thankfully, New Yorkers who utilize Kosher and Halal food have a strong ally in Congresswoman Grace Meng who has relentlessly fought for them in Washington DC. The Biden administration and Secretary Vilsack have been strong allies in helping get more food to people in need and we look forward to working with them to ensure New Yorkers who rely on Kosher and Halal food get the support from the federal government that they need.”
Between June of last year and June of this year, 24 million households reported they were food insecure, compared to the 14 million households that faced food insecurity in 2020, showing the importance of federal feeding programs. Although programs like The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) have helped address this issue, kosher and halal food options are limited.
The Congressmembers were joined by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the House Hunger Caucus. McGovern secured $2.5 million to make the second conference focused on ending hunger in over 50 years possible, and has worked for years to build awareness and push for legislation to address policy failures that have created food insecurity problems. The conference took place earlier this week.