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Assemblyman wants kosher and halal meals available in NYC schools

According to city officials, 38 percent of public school students are Jewish and Muslim.
The DOE says its vegetarian options satisfy kosher and halal dietary requirements.
A new bill proposes NYC public schools provide halal and kosher meals to students upon request. Credit: US Department of Agriculture/Flickr

A state assemblyman wants New York City’s school cafeterias to do a better job of catering to the religious dietary restrictions of students.

David Weprin, a Queens Democrat, has introduced a bill requiring city schools to provide kosher and halal meals when requested.

“If we can provide kosher and halal meals in prison, it seems to me it should be an option for public school students,” he told the New York Post.

According to city officials, 38 percent of public school students are Jewish and Muslim.

In light of that growing number, the assemblyman feels it’s necessary to “honor and respect each other’s religions.”

In September, Jewish and Muslim students joined lawmakers in front of City Hall to rally for the previous version of the bill, which would have required the kosher and halal meals to be offered in schools where at least 25 percent of students requested them.

Weprin said the halal and kosher meals would add minimal expenses, because the prepackaged foods can be stored. 

The proposal follows another school lunch reform push last week; all five borough presidents appealed to Mayor Bill de Blasio in a letter saying that free lunch should be made available to all students regardless of income eligibility.

The expanded free lunches would require an additional $9 million in funding, but the kosher and halal program is not expected to bear a significant extra burden on expenses or kitchen capabilities.

“I don’t anticipate they’d have to do a dramatic kitchen change. You could get hot, prepared meals from different vendors,” he said.

The Department of Education said schools already offer vegetarian meals, which satisfy kosher and halal meal restrictions. However, some Jewish and Muslim leaders say that those vegetarian meals do not undergo the required supervision.