Muslim body supports NYC Council member Rafael Espinal’s move to introduce halal option in school cafeterias

NYC public schools are most segregated in country, says new report.

By Deepak Chitnis

WASHINGTON, DC: The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter (CAIR-NY) has joined with New York City Council member Rafael L. Espinal, Jr. to introduce a bill that would create a halal option in grade school cafeterias throughout the city.

The bill, entitled Resolution 54, urges that “New York City’s public schools should be required to offer lunch options that meet Islamic dietary laws, thereby ensuring that Muslim students are meeting religious standards and are not virtually excluded from the school lunch system.”

The proposal follows another that CAIR-NY introduced to the New York State Senate, which says that any city with a population of over one million citizens should offer halal lunches by default.

Around 12-20% of the students in the New York City school system – which equates to about 170,000 children – practice Islam, which states that only halal meat can be consumed by its adherents. In creating the proposal, Espinal said that many students skip meals because they simply can’t eat what the schools offer.

“While there is an ongoing conversation of providing free lunch to every student, we must also be progressive in instituting lunches that respect the faiths of New York City’s diverse population,” Espinal said. “Muslim students in our public schools are not eating lunch because the options they are currently given does not conform to the strict dietary guidelines of their faith. This is simply unacceptable. I cannot sit idle while children in my district go hungry in school.”

CAIR-NY Director of Operations Sadiya Khalique echoed the sentiment, saying that she herself was one of those kids.

“Growing up in New York City, I, along with many Muslim students, had to struggle during lunch with not having a proper halal meal for the day,” she said. “As a community, we have to make sure our children receive the best education in environments in which their religious beliefs and practices are respected. No child should leave a lunchroom or enter a classroom hungry.”

The call for halal meals comes on the same day as a new report, released by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles, states that New York City public schools are among the most segregated in the entire country. The survey found that many of the school’s Black and Latino children are put into schools with each other, and that these schools typically have the highest percentages of low-income children.

While the study admits that the reason for such segregation is due to housing patterns, which tend to group families of similar economic situations together and have their children go to the same schools, it proposes that the problem could be solved with re-districting, or simply placing the students in other schools that have more room, better teaches, and are more racially diverse.

Espinal said that a firm date has not yet been decided on for the resolution to be debated and ultimately voted on.

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