Faith-Based Peanut Butter

Apr 27, 2017 by

I’m all for faith-based peanut butter and have no quarrel with hummus on a pretzel, but State Assemblyman David Weprin’s bill to require New York City public school cafeterias to serve food on demand that conforms to religious dietary restrictions is really a munchie too far.

It will be costly and create all kinds of logistical, enforcement and probably legal problems. If a full meal will be mandated, then there will need to be food distribution protocols and a bureaucracy to enforce the separation of food items and perhaps even kitchens at almost two-thousand locations.

There will be vendors who will have to be vetted by authorities from both government and religious regulators and there will be inspections and a table of sanctions set up in case of violations. Vendors will have to be vetted. By whom? According to what standard?

Anyone who is familiar with the hectic atmosphere and multitasking challenges in school cafeterias realizes how impractical this new ideas is. What will happen if foods get mixed together that are supposed by religious tradition to be kept separate. Will there be co-locations of food pantries? If so, what happens if the strict laws of one faith is in conflict with the ordinances of the other?

There should always be food available for hungry children or those who for any reason haven’t brought lunch from home. They should not be singled-out or stigmatized. It should be non-controversial,simple and nutritious and not pose any storage issues.

I’m not opposed to David Weprin’s proposal on the grounds of the hackneyed Establishment Clause. But the exhausted kitchen workers, who already have to labor in 100 degree heat for part of the year, shouldn’t have to be be burdened with keeping track of which children cannot have radishes on Wednesday and which cannot have artichokes on Tuesday. It’ll be a Keystone Kops scene with food handlers scrambling around to keep track of who gets what on the serving area.

And what happens if they make a mistake or the child wants to buck his parents’ dietary requirements and eat what is not acceptable to observers of their religious tradition? Will they be subject to confrontations and lawsuits?  That sounds absurd, but more ridiculous things happen every day in most schools.It is the parents’ responsibility to make special arrangements for their children’s diets in school. The only exceptions are where there are food allergies.

No doubt the point was not lost on Mr. Weprin that if his bill becomes law, he will further expand his voter “cred” as an apostle of peace on earth and good-will.  Miracles are made possible by ecumenical kitchens.

Ron Isaac

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