February 29, 2016

Senator Gillibrand Urges U.S. Department of Agriculture to Provide Update on Purchase of Kosher and Halal Food for Food Banks

Gillibrand: reports of shortages of Kosher and Halal foods in New York food banks are deeply concerning Gillibrand-backed proposal to increase Kosher and Halal food in food banks and pantries included in 2014 Farm Bill

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide an update on the agency’s purchase of Kosher and Halal foods for distribution in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which food banks and pantries rely upon to feed families struggling with food insecurity. After hearing reports of shortages of Kosher and Halal foods in New York food banks, Gillibrand fought to include a proposal in the 2014 Farm Bill that would require USDA to increase its purchase of Kosher and Halal foods for local food banks and community organizations. 

“I am deeply concerned by reports of shortages of Kosher and Halal foods available to the many observant individuals and families facing hunger and food insecurity in New York and throughout our country,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Like many New Yorkers, some Orthodox Jewish families struggle to feed their children and must rely on local food banks and community organizations to provide them with nutritious food. I fought to get a provision included in the Farm Bill to address this problem, and it is critical that USDA continues to work to fight food insecurity in all American communities, including those with religious dietary restrictions.”

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 poor or near-poor households.

The full text of the letter is below:

  

The Honorable Thomas Vilsack

Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

 

I write to request an update on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s purchase of Kosher and Halal foods for distribution in The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).  I am deeply concerned by reports of shortages of kosher and halal foods available to the many observant individuals and families facing hunger and food insecurity in New York and throughout our country.

 

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 poor or near-poor households. Like many New Yorkers, some Orthodox Jewish families struggle to feed their children and must rely on local food banks and community organizations to provide them with supplemental food.

 

Food banks and pantries depend on food provided to them by TEFAP.  The 2014 Farm Bill included an important provision directing USDA to increase the purchase of kosher and halal commodity foods whenever they can be obtained at equal cost. Further, this food must be labeled appropriately so that distribution entities can select the foods that meet the needs of the families they serve. This provision is critical to meet the needs of food insecure individuals with religious dietary restrictions. For the many individuals around the country who are only able to eat kosher or halal foods in observance of their religious beliefs and who rely on federal food programs, any shortage in available commodities means their families are at additional risk of malnutrition and hunger. 

 

I ask that you provide an update on the implementation of Section 4207 of the 2014 Farm Bill in order to gauge the progress USDA has made to ensure TEFAP meets the needs of families with specific religious dietary concerns. I look forward to your timely response and attention to this matter. Thank you for your continued commitment to fighting hunger and food insecurity in all American communities.

 

Sincerely,

 

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand