Kudos to NYC Councilman Chaim Deutsch for his month-long efforts to raise public awareness of the failure of the de Blasio administration to include kosher food consumers in its coronavirus emergency food program – the so-called “grab and go program.” The program was announced on March 22 and became operative on April 3. As the result of Deutsch’s efforts and that of the Council’s Jewish Caucus, which he chairs, the Administration will make kosher food available starting Tuesday, April 21 at some locations, and on Thursday, April 23 at others. Readers are urged to contact Councilman Deutsch’s office at [email protected] for details.
The offer of kosher food came within hours after the Caucus wrote a scathing letter to the administration saying that by “offering free meals to everyone besides kosher-keeping New Yorkers, the City is sending a strong and deeply offensive message about its priorities.” Previously, the only provision for special diets had been for vegetarian and halal food.
Under the revised program, 10 sites were identified at which kosher food would be available and added to the 400 sites where non-kosher food was already available. Under the program individuals are able to receive three meals per day.
As of this writing Deutsch is seeking an expansion of the number of kosher food sites. At present they consist of two in Williamsburg, two in Crown Heights, two in Far Rockaway, two in Flushing/Kew Gardens, and one each in Borough Park and Midwood. However, while all locations have significant Jewish populations, Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island were not included. In addition, large pockets of Jewish New Yorkers live far from the designated locations in their particular borough. Deutsch said he is pursuing an appropriate expansion of sites.
Left unaddressed in the initial expansion announcement was the question of providing kosher food for the homebound kosher consumer. While the non-kosher eating homebound were able to request that food be delivered to them, that option was not available to kosher consumers. But that omission was quickly resolved and those interested should contact Deutsch’s office for the details of home deliveries.
While we appreciate that the de Blasio administration has at long last come around, we are appalled at its initial insensitivity. In 2020, it is just inexplicable. We trust that Deutsch and his colleagues will continue actively monitoring developments. In fact, their being alert to this sort of discrimination with respect to other coronavirus emergency initiatives would be welcome as well.