Efforts to pass the bill have been going on since last year.
New York City schools may soon be required to make their cafeterias more inclusive: A state assemblyman from Queens named David Weprin has introduced legislation that would make public schools in the city offer lunch options that meet the religious dietary restrictions of it’s students, in particular meals that are kosher and halal.
“The city is much more diverse religiously now than it’s ever been,” Werpin said to the New York Post. “It’s important that we honor and respect each other’s religions.”
Although Weprin’s bill doesn’t cover how much the mandate would cost, he dismissed any additional expense, arguing that schools can easily purchase pre-packaged food that meets the requirements.
Weprin points out that kosher and halal options are available in both prisons and senior centers, so it’s not a big stretch to imagine that school kids should be given the same allowances.
Public schools currently offer vegetarian options in their cafeterias, but they don’t have any procedures in place to make sure that meals are prepared according to religious practice.
Rabbi Yakov Cohen from Brooklyn praised the bill, mentioning that most Jewish kids who observe kosher rules have to bring just a peanut and jelly sandwich to school for lunch, instead of a hot meal.
Lawmakers and students, led by Weprin, began pushing for more inclusive meal options last September. CBS reported that at a rally calling for “Food Justice” outside City Hall, one advocate said that Jewish and Muslim students make up 38% of the public school population.
One student who attended the rally backed up Cohen’s account of kids who are forced to eat a simple sandwich for lunch everyday, or else not eat at all, which another student, who often had to leave campus for lunch, said caused him to feel “lightheaded and dizzy, ultimately causing a lack of focus.”
“It’s definitely very hard to find something you can eat,” Tahseen Choudery said. “It’s either you pick up peanut butter and jelly or you don’t eat that day.”