DETROIT, MI -- The farm bill that the president signed into law during a visit to Michigan earlier this year requires the federal government to start helping food banks provide kosher and halal products to families in need, and a Metro Detroit organization plans to pursue the aid.
A Jewish organization in New York sparked the legislation after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 left many affected by food shortages searching food bank shelves for kosher products, according to the Associated Press.
The measure was passed over multiple times in Congress, but was included in the sweeping, five-year farm bill passed in February.
Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with gauging demand; finding vendors that can supply food prepared according to Jewish and Muslim dietary codes at comparable prices to standard food; and getting the labeled and tracked goods to distributors, reports Jeff Karoub of the Associated Press.
Getting the program into place will take a while, officials said.
But Zaman International Inc., a Dearborn-based group that runs a mobile food pantry and provided 3,612 meals in one 2013 program, plans to apply for the federal help.
"It would be huge - a lot of our budget goes to halal meat and chicken," Zaman executive Director Najah Bazzy told Karoub.
"For me, having the halal meat - if it could be given to us through the right vendors - really opens the opportunity for ... giving people access to the total food pyramid."
After Superstorm Sandy, Masbia Soup Kitchen provided kosher meals at local shelters for everyone affected by the storm.