March 28, 2018

Senator Gillibrand, Congressman Nadler Urge Usda To Label Kosher And Halal Food For The National School Lunch Program

More than 50,000 Students Require Access to Kosher and Halal Meals through School Lunches

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler today urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to issue food codes for kosher and halal foods to be used in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). The National School Lunch Program is a federal meal program that provides low-cost or free lunches to school children. Schools receive funding to spend on government food for the program, however, they cannot use the entirety of their NSLP funds for kosher and halal foods because the USDA does not currently have a coding system to properly identify these foods.

“Children in thousands of communities across our nation rely on nutritious meals provided through the National School Lunch Program. This program has proven to be a vital source of nutrition to support young minds and bodies for learning,” Gillibrand and Nadler wrote to Secretary Perdue. “To ensure that every child in every community has access to the food they need, we request you provide a plan and definitive timeline to issue kosher and halal food codes for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) ordering system.”

Many Jewish students rely on NSLP to provide them with appropriate meals while at school. In New York City alone, more than 180,000 Jewish children are living in poor or near-poor households. By creating a coding system for kosher and halal foods, schools will be able to easily identify what foods they can purchase to provide students with nutritious and culturally appropriate meals.

The text from Gillibrand and Nadler’s letter is available here and below: 

Sonny Perdue

Secretary

United States Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Perdue,

Children in thousands of communities across our nation rely on nutritious meals provided through the National School Lunch Program. This program has proven to be a vital source of nutrition to support young minds and bodies for learning. To ensure that every child in every community has access to the food they need, we request you provide a plan and definitive timeline to issue kosher and halal food codes for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) ordering system.

Every school day, more than 50,000 students require access to kosher and halal meals through the NSLP. In an effort to meet the religious dietary restrictions of their students, some schools seek to use their NSLP entitlement to purchase appropriate kosher or halal food items. However, because there are insufficient commodity codes to clearly identify these products, some schools cannot use the entirety of their NSLP allocation. This results in $2 million in important nutrition that does not make it onto the lunch trays of children every year. There is a strong demand that kosher and halal proteins, including tuna, frozen chicken, canned salmon, ground turkey, mozzarella cheese, and yogurt, be added to the commodities list. The higher relative cost of proteins makes it imperative that school nutrition professionals have codes that facilitate the ordering of appropriate foods.

In the five boroughs of New York City alone, there are 507,000 people living in poor or near-poor Jewish households. More than 180,000 Jewish children, nearly 45 percent of all Jewish children in New York City, live in poor or near-poor households. Due to this level of food insecurity, many Jewish children rely on NSLP to provide them with important, appropriate foods while in school.

I thank you and the staff of USDA for previous efforts to provide culturally appropriate meals for our students and appreciate your prompt response to this request.

Sincerely,