Monday, May 27, 2013

Kosher and Halal Food Act would meet dietary requirements of faith groups needing disaster relief

Late last month, Rep. Joseph Crowley introduced the "Kosher and Halal Food Act of 2013," which "Amends the Emergency Food Assistance Act of 1983 to: (1) provide for the increased purchase of Kosher and Halal food if such food is cost neutral as compared to food that is not from food manufacturers with a Kosher or Halal certification, and (2) modify the labeling of the commodities list under the emergency food assistance program to enable Kosher and Halal food bank operators to identify which commodities to obtain from local food banks." The bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition on May 22.
The bill follows the relief efforts during Hurricane Sandy.  William Rapfogel, Executive Director and CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and Mohammad Razvi, Executive Director of the Council of Peoples Organization observed that "…  an estimated 330,000 Jewish households in New York City and 300,000 Muslim households in the tri-state area live in poverty. Because of the dietary requirements of their faith, many families we serve are unable to rely on the federally funded network of food pantries to feed their families. As social service providers, it is not unusual for us to see dozens of families in a single day who are going hungry because there are no Kosher and Halal options in food pantries. And since the storm, we have had to double our efforts to serve families in the hardest-hit communities while continuing to help those in need outside of Zone A."
Rapfogel and Razvi hope that the bill will decrease the number of New Yorkers going hungry in 2013 and beyond.
So far, the anti-Jew, anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists have been quiet — but as Rational Wiki points out, hysteria has erupted before over foods — like when Campbell's Soup Company test-marketed a line of halal certified products in 2010 and Tea Party types viewed the test marketing as an example of Sharia law creeping into western culture.  In the far right's unending quest to identify strange new conspiracies that supposedly threaten America, Halal foods — that is, foods that that Muslims are allowed to eat under Islamic Sharia — were identified a couple years ago by Pastor Mark Biltz at World Net Daily  as foods that are  "sacrificed to idols" which will make Americans "catch Islam like a virus."  As God Discussion's Dakota O'Leary reported, by Thanksgiving 2011 the conspiracy had grown.  Butterball was accused of "waging a secret jihad on the nation by sneaking halal turkeys on unsuspecting American tables."
Kosher foods are foods that meet dietary laws, based in the Old Testament, on what is fit for people to eat.  According to News 7 in Denver, a growing number of Americans, particularly those who have food allergies or are concerned about food processing, are seeking out Kosher foods for their quality.  Of the consumers who purchase kosher foods, only 14 percent do so for religious reasons.  But anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists complain that the kosher label is a "Jewish tax" – an allegation that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) refutes. "The bizarre claim by right wing extremists that kosher certification markings on food product labels ("kosher certification" "K," etc.) cost consumers extra money and represent, in effect, a 'kosher tax' to make rabbis rich, is a striking example of the propaganda used by anti-Semites to trick the uninformed into accepting conspiracy charges and stereotypes about Jews," the ADL writes in a piece that debunks the claim.

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