P.S. 132, the Juan Pablo Duarte School, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – A $1 million pilot program has been included in New York City’s new budget to provide kosher and halal lunches in public schools for the upcoming academic year.

US Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens, N.Y.) hailed the decision, saying, “I have long called for halal and kosher meals to be made available in New York City schools, and I’ve made similar calls on the federal level as well. … I’m pleased that Jewish and Muslim students will finally have lunch options that adhere to their dietary restrictions.”

The New York City public-school system is the largest in the world. More than 1.1 million students are taught in more than 1,700 public schools with a budget of nearly $25 billion. The public-school system is managed by the New York City Department of Education.

A significant number of Jewish children in New York’s five boroughs, however, attend day schools or yeshivahs. According to data by the New York State Department of Education, in 2016 the number of students attending kindergarten through 12th grade in Jewish day schools and yeshivahs exceeded 100,000 enrollees for the first time.

Still, the new program will benefit families whose children attend public schools and observe kashrut.

Earlier this month, Meng sent a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, asking him to provide these dietary-specific meals to students as part of the city’s school-lunch program.

Thanks to his efforts, she said, students will finally have access to these meals.

“This pilot program is the right step forward in creating a more inclusive approach to school lunches in our city,” said Meng. “Students should feel welcomed at their schools, and including different dietary options is a critical element to ensuring that no one goes hungry.”


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