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New law aimed at boosting supplies of kosher, halal food for poor; spurred by Superstorm Sandy

Food and Farm Religious Diets.JPEG

Volunteers Zahraa Debaja, center, and Zeinab Makki, right, prepare meals from food provided by the Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn, Mich., Friday, April 25, 2014. The reach of one of the nation’s few charitable organizations exclusively providing halal food to the poor could be greatly expanded under the new federal provision. Zaman International Inc. is based in Dearborn, which has a large Muslim population has provided about 250 tons of hot and dry food since 2010 and serves about 150 families with a monthly food box and vouchers. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (The Associated Press)

For the first time, the federal government is required to purchase and provide food banks emergency supplies of kosher or halal products.

The void was first revealed in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the East Coast in 2012 and led to food shortages for those most in need. A Jewish philanthropic organization in New York alerted lawmakers, and the measure was tucked into the sweeping federal farm bill signed into law in February.

Federal agriculture officials now must implement the law, which requires them to buy food prepared in accordance with Jewish and Muslim dietary rules. It can't be more expensive than regularly produced food.

Agencies that operate food banks welcome the provision but say there are challenges in getting some products for the same price.

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