Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nashville Red Cross to cater to religious dietary needs

The American Red Cross learned a few lessons from last year's catastrophic flood, including the growing religious diversity of Middle Tennessee and the food needed to honor those different ways of worship.

The result is a push by the charity to find vendors that can supply kosher meals for the area's Jewish population and halal meat for Middle Tennessee's Muslims.

It is part of an ongoing effort by the Red Cross to take more note of what different populations eat in order to better prepare for disasters.

"In a disaster, there are very limited resources, but we try to plan menus to accommodate as best as we can," said Joel Sullivan, CEO of the local chapter of the American Red Cross, which serves 17 counties surrounding Nashville. "We learned during the flood that there are dietary needs out there that there wasn't a demand for in this area before."

In the months after the flood, staff at the Red Cross have been calling community leaders to get advice on how they could have better responded.

Food was a popular topic.
The local Red Cross' primary meal suppliers are Second Harvest Food Bank and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. They are looking for more vendors, especially those that can in a pinch supply meat-free and ethnic foods.

Kosher meals are prepared by Jewish standards, including the way an animal is slaughtered. Of the 8,000 Jewish people in greater Nashville, about 500 have strict kosher diets, said Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel on West End Avenue.

Rabbi Yitzchok Tiechtel of Chabad Nashville said he applauds the effort. The day the flood hit, Tiechtel and volunteers from Chabad Nashville delivered to shelters more than 300 kosher meals that had been prepared for an event that day.

"The Red Cross raises money from the general public, so the food it serves should be available to the general public," Tiechtel said.
Shelter is concern
Amir Arain, public relations director for the Islamic Center of Nashville, regularly buys meats from area restaurants that supply the center with halal meats, which are also slaughtered in a specific way. Most Muslims, per their religion, will eat anything in a disaster situation, he said.

Arain said there are 25,000 Muslims living in Middle Tennessee.

Arain's primary concern is for emergency shelter. Women must stay in a separate area, he said.

Santosh Kortian is the manager of Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine on West End Avenue.

During the flood, he sent money and vegetarian foods to shelters. The India Association of Nashville called him to send meals.

He said he hopes to never have to be in a situation in which he has to decide whether to compromise his vegetarianism in an emergency. Like Strosberg, Arain and Tiechtel, he appreciates the preparedness.

"It's impressive," Strosberg said. "They did such a good job that people are complaining about the food. That means they covered all the necessary ground."

Courtesy by: WBIR.com

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