Queens lawmakers’ school lunch bill would ensure halal and kosher options in public schools

Girl holding food tray in school cafeteria
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State Senators Jessica Ramos and Joseph Addabbo are sponsoring a bill that would ensure lunch options for Jewish and Muslim public school students.

The bill was introduced in 2020 after a city program with similar intentions was delayed. Ramos thought it only made sense to bring this bill to the state level.

Navneet Kaur, a Queens native, wrote a statement for the Community Board 5 meeting last week to advocate for this bill and drum up support around the city. Kaur grew up vegetarian and came from a “financially unsettled immigrant family.”

“Having a hot meal for school every day was not a guaranteed possibility,” Kaur said. “Growing up, I often experienced emotional stress, embarrassment and abandonment by the school system and in the cafeteria.”

Kaur, who is a healthcare professional at Lenox Hill Radiology, experienced firsthand what it was like going through the school day without a hot meal. 

“There were never enough food options and what was served was not healthy for any one of us,” Kaur said. “I do wish this bill serves a purpose of providing and amending food we serve our students in schools. These children are our future and all children should be given equal opportunity.”

This bill would amend education law requiring public schools with 500 or more students practicing halal and/or kosher diets offer those food options during lunch. 

“All of NYC’s students should have an equal opportunity to have school lunches that meet their needs,” Ramos said. “My bill ensures that our public schools recognize and value the diversity of our communities, not just by making kosher and halal foods available, but also by encouraging cultural competency across the entire student body.”

The legislation cites a rising population of residents and children practicing Islamic and Jewish faith in the state. 

“Because of their religious dietary requirements, these students, who are attending public schools in New York City, are restricted in what they can eat during lunch at school,” the justification for the bill stated. “In certain cases, students have to throw out non-halal and kosher lunches or often do not eat at all, causing disruption in the learning process.”

The bill would also enhance awareness of diversity of cultures, religions and ethnicities for students. It is currently is the Senate’s Education Committee.