Despite a high number of observant Jewish households in Riverdale-Kingsbridge, kosher meals are not being offered by the city during COVID-19 to the Bronx.
Two elected officials took notice of this and are calling for the city to change this. Councilman Andrew Cohen and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz realize that religious Jews are facing serious challenges in accessing meals and local pantries are struggling to cope with the surge in demand.
So, the electeds called on the city to make kosher meal offerings available to members of the northwest Bronx community in Riverdale and Van Cortlandt Village. Nearly a month after the initial roll-out of New York City’s meal program for those in need, the city has made kosher meals available at 14 grab-and-go locations in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, but not in the Bronx.
There are elevated concentrations of people who observe kosher dietary rules near Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy at 660 W. 237th St. and the Sheila Mencher School at 3961 Hillman Ave., which are currently operating as meal hubs, where any New Yorker can receive up to three grab-and-go meals per day.
Dinowitz said his office has been in frequent contact with the mayor’s office and hopes to see kosher food available for his constituents sooner rather than later.
“People who eat kosher should be able to access grab-and-go meals in their own neighborhoods if they need it,” Dinowitz said. “Many observant households may not need help getting food, but for those who do – we should not be asking anyone to choose between their religion and fulfilling their basic need to eat. Even if it only helps a handful of people, this is the morally right thing to do.”
A 2011 Jewish community study from the UJA-Federation indicates the Riverdale-Kingsbridge area has more than 22,000 people living in Jewish households, reflecting 25 percent of the total area population. It also shows that 30 percent of respondents in the Bronx consider themselves to be kosher households.
According to Cohen, people deserve access to food regardless of their ethnicity or religion.
“No one should go hungry in this city,” Cohen said. “In the borough with some of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity even before the COVID-19 crisis, the disparate access to kosher meals for Bronx residents is concerning and disappointing. We’re now seeing a combination of crises compounding serious food access challenges for kosher-observant residents – an economic crisis, a public health crisis, and a hunger crisis. Those who were previously in need are still in need and those who weren’t in need are now in need. We must act now to close the gap and ensure equitable food access for kosher-observant residents in the Bronx.”