In the past we have noted a definite lack of Orthodox Jewish input in the policy-making of the administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. An important if unfortunate example of this arose this past week regarding the administration of a federally funded free lunch program.
When he introduced New York City’s “Free School Lunch for All” plan, the mayor promised that “every kid in New York City [would have] the fuel they need to succeed.” Included were to be both public and private school students.
But as Allen Fagin, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union (OU) put it, the city is “openly discriminating against Jewish students in nonpublic and religious schools” because the program does not provide food certified as kosher.
According to the OU, some 30,000 yeshiva students cannot participate in the program. An estimated 38 percent of New York City public school students are Jewish or Muslim. The religious dietary requirements of Muslim students would apparently be met by kosher certified products. While the plan offers vegetarian meals, which would be acceptable for Jewish and Muslim students, they are not certified in a manner required by both groups.
Surely this problem would have been avoided if people with knowledge of religious needs had been on board. But they were not, and so here we are. The OU plans an ad campaign condemning and seeking to correct the mayor’s failure to meet the nutritional needs of all New York children. It has our full support.