May 20, 2013

Should the Government Stock Kosher Food?

In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, FEMA officials and other rescue and relief organizations were frantically looking for prepackaged kosher meals. When they found out that most of the prepackaged meals were already spoken for, I suggested buying parts of meals separately and putting them into trays for delivery to those affected by the mammoth storm, all, of course, under kosher supervision. Some suggested that the government should have a stockpile of kosher food in areas with heavy concentrations of observant Jews. 

Recently New York’s Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) introduced legislation to ensure that kosher food pantries receive adequate supply of food for hungry families as part of the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). With an estimated 117,000 Jewish households in New York City living in poverty, the lawmakers’ legislation requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture (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 the most. 

“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,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must take steps to help the neediest observant families and children get access to nutritious food during these difficult times.” It remains to be seen how the legislation fares but at the very least Congress, thanks to Senator Gillebrand and Congressman Crowley, should receive a bit of an education about the dynamics of kosher.