We know that this ferocious pandemic has taken a massive toll in terms of lives lost, but once this unfolding tragedy runs its course, it will be time to take stock of its collateral damage. The economic shutdown required to “flatten the curve” has devastated the livelihoods of millions of Americans, including many religiously observant families who send their children to nonpublic schools. Those institutions and their students need assistance, now more than ever.
Prior to the pandemic—in what was arguably the strongest economy of our lifetime—67,000 students in New York’s Jewish day schools qualified for free or reduced-price lunch under federal guidelines, a commonly cited benchmark for financial distress. More broadly, 20 percent of families in the United States were living below the poverty line with 30 million students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, and 2.9 million students not knowing where their next meal will come from.
This is why we fought for the New York City Department of Education’s recent move to offer kosher and halal meal options at their “grab and go” distribution stations. The fact that supply ran out at some sites before 11 a.m. on the first day of distribution last week demonstrates the level of distress in the Jewish community. The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on low- and middle-income families, already profound, will only get worse. Food insecurity threatens to grow on a scale that we could have never imagined in this country.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.