An amendment to the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program that would require goods suitable for people in religious communities passed the House of Representatives last week.
But the federal Farm Bill to which it was attached was defeated in the Republican-led House 234-195 on Thursday night because of objections to the extent of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) .
The bill would require the Department of Agriculture to target, label, and track distribution of food it provides through states to local emergency food providers – such as food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. In a public-private partnership, the food banks combine these resources with private donations of food and funds.
The Metropolitan New York Council on Jewish Poverty, which lobbied with other groups for amendment, said it would call on the White House to take executive action to enact the provisions.
“We’re pleased the House saw the wisdom in passing an amendment that would require the USDA to ensure distribution of halal and kosher food to those areas in the country that need it,” said William Rapfogel, executive director of Met Council.
“We are however concerned that with the various other details of the farm bill being challenged as to whether this amendment will ever be implemented. Therefore we are calling on the Department of Agriculture and the White House to implement its provisions without further delay.”
The amendment was sponsored by Reps. Joseph Crowley of Queens, a Democrat, and Michael Grimm of Staten Island, a Republican.
“Superstorm Sandy was a harsh reminder as to why it is essential that our food banks carry halal and kosher food,” said Grimm. “After the storm, my staff worked with constituents and other groups to help coordinate preparation of Halal meals by families in Bay Ridge and with a Rabbi who was able to get a supply of kosher food for Orthodox Jewish families in need. By ensuring food banks can obtain this food in advance, we can remain prepared for any situation and ensure that all members of the community are provided for, no matter what their dietary needs.”