Deutsch Brings Jewish & Muslim Families Together For Dietary Cause


City Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D-Sheepshead Bay, Manhattan Beach, Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Midwood) today announced the allocation of $1 million in the City Council’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget to institute a pilot program in select New York City public and nonpublic schools that would offer a kosher and halal lunch menu option for students.

The program will start this school year at as yet to be determined public and private schools. The kosher and halal food will be prepared offsite through a vendor let out from a request for proposals (RFP).

City Councilman Chaim Deutsch

“Universal free lunch in New York City schools is not truly universal until every child, in every school, regardless of religious dietary restrictions, is provided with a healthy, filling meal. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach, and we must be truly inclusive to ensure that all New York City students are provided equal opportunities for success in the classroom,” said Deutsch.

“Many families cannot afford to send their children to school with a lunch every day. This pilot program is an enormous step forward towards this effort, and I am grateful for Speaker Corey Johnson’s willingness to take on this important issue and include the initial allocation in the budget. If patients in City hospitals and inmates in City jails are offered kosher and halal options, there is no reason that our youngest New Yorkers should not be. I look forward to working together with the advocates, my Council colleagues, the Mayor’s office, and the Speaker to ensure a quick and smooth rollout of our pilot program,” he added.

Joining Deutsch at the announcement on the steps of city hall in lower Manhattan were City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Comptroller Scott Stringer (D), Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) and City Council Members Rafael Espinal (D-East New York, Bushwick), Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach, Bensonhurst) and Mathieu Eugene (D-Prospect Lefferts Gardens, East Flatbush, Flatbush), and advocates from the Jewish and Muslim communities.

While Deutsch crafted the city initiative as a pilot program, Weprin has been doing his part on the state level in introducing a measure, A7231, amending the education law to require public schools in any city with a population over one million to offer food options during lunch. This includes food options to any students practicing a religious faith with specific dietary restriction.

As New York City is the only city in the state with over a million people it would only apply to the city.

“No student should have to choose between observing their religion and eating lunch in school with their peers. Thanks to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson,  Councilman Chaim Deutsch, and Councilman Rafael Espinal for taking this first step to provide lunches for  students in both  public and nonpublic schools,” said Weprin.

Brannan, whose district includes one of the largest Arab-Muslim communities in the city, said the measure is very important to his constituents.

“Halal and kosher meals will go a long way in reducing any stigma kids may feel for not being able to eat the same lunch as their classmates and it will lessen the burden on families who must prepare a lunch, even though there is now universal free lunch in our schools. With 1.1 million students, it’s time we realize that a one size fits all approach doesn’t work for everybody. By making these changes in our schools we can help kids feel more welcome and able to focus on learning,” said Brannan.

Check out the video of the press conference: