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State Education Department extends Lawrence kosher food program one week


Lawrence School District officials said that the State Education Department has allowed the kosher food distribution program that provides up to 21,000 households with food every Wednesday was extended another week, Jan. 20,while the SED awaits data from the school district. The program is a partnership between the Lawrence School District and Lawrence-based Elite Caterers.

State Education Department officials said they have been asking for data and providing guidance and technical assistance to Lawrence over the past several months to help ensure that students who are learning in school daily have access to “healthy meals.”

Department officials said they told the school district that they “must work with schools in the community, should they chose, to provide daily on-site meals during the school day.” Lawrence can provide medals to younger siblings of students as well weekend meals, SED officials added.

Officials said that that Lawrence, “has not sufficiently demonstrated that its grab and go  operation meets the current requirements of providing unduplicated meals.” The school district needs to provide information to show that the food operation meets the guidelines. The program can be restarted after the district provides what SED called “adequate information.”

The program that began last May not only feeds many people, some who are not Jewish or keep kosher, according to Lawrence Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations Jeremy Feder, it also keeps roughly 50 employees of Elite Catering working.

“We should be celebrated for doing this,” Feder said, adding that 10 other states – California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey and Wisconsin – are running similar programs under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act. “We do not get guidance, this is very frustrating,” he said.

Lawrence Board of Education Trustee Tova Plaut took to change.org and created a petition. On the petition page she wrote. “The FFRA and CARES acts allow states to loosen their school meal programs to serve all students in an area, even if that area wouldn’t under normal circumstances qualify for 100 percent free meals.” She noted that the Lawrence program is “the only kosher program on Long Island including Nassau and Suffolk counties.”

Plaut said that halting the program is “in direct contrast to the intent of the program during the Covid-19 pandemic,” and canceling it “is denying children access to food and nutrition during this unprecedented time and is leaving many children on Long Island hungry.”

Feder and Plaut said that they have contacted the local elected officials looking for help to reinstate the kosher food distribution program.

 Marion & Aaron Gural JCC  officials said that  should people be in need of food their  Rina Shkolnik Kosher Food Pantry is available for anyone in need, as well as a variety of other services. Contact dalia.abott@guraljcc.org or call (516) 234-6020 for more information.

As of press time, more than 3,000 people have signed the petition at: http://chng.it/L7cDrGhnSF.