Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) today announced new legislation they introduced in both chambers of Congress 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 244,000 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.”
“In these tough times, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, too many New York families are struggling to get by,” said Congressman Crowley. “New York’s food banks provide an invaluable service to neighbors in need, and we must do all we can to help support and sustain these resources. Our legislation will help make it easier for these food banks to provide kosher meals and food items, helping them to better meet the needs of the communities they serve.”
“The devastation brought on by Hurricane Sandy has multiplied the need for kosher emergency bulk food, particularly proteins (tuna, salmon and meats), in our community now more than ever before,” said William E. Rapfogel, Met Council CEO. “Jewish individuals and families living in or near poverty become dangerously vulnerable in times of disaster. We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Crowley’s advocacy and support for this effort in normal times and even more in this crisis so we can ensure that all New Yorkers have equal access to this basic necessity.”
According to Met Council, nearly 400,000 poor or near-poor Jewish households citywide are struggling to get by and approximately 52,000 Jewish children are living in poverty.
Currently, the USDA purchases some kosher foods under TEFAP but does not track or label them to ensure those meals end up in kosher-specific pantries and communities. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Crowley authored legislation that would boost kosher meals for TEFAP and that would establish a system to monitor and account for the dietary restrictions of food-insecure individuals who can only eat kosher food due to their religious beliefs. The bill would require the USDA to target and purchase cost-effective kosher food from certified manufacturers as well as monitor and label the meals as such for local kosher food banks.
Earlier this year, Senator Gillibrand pushed the federal government to help New York City food banks, many which are experiencing shortages of kosher food, to provide meals and nutrition to observant seniors and families by making sure they receive the maximum kosher food allotment from TEFAP.
Senator Gillibrand has led the fight in the U.S. Senate to restore over $4 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps, which allow low-income households, including kosher families, to buy food. Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Crowley will continue to urge Congress not to tighten its fiscal belt on the backs of families and children facing a constant struggle against hunger.