New California bill requires schools to provide halal, kosher meals

(KRON)—Last week, the California Senate Education Committee passed the Halal and Kosher School Meals Act by a unanimous vote of 7-0.

The bill, which coincides with both the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Passover, requires California public schools to provide halal and kosher meal options to students if the school requires it.

“When suitable meals aren’t available for these students, they often have to go without eating at school, something that is fundamentally unfair and clearly detrimental to their educational experience,” said Senator Josh Newman, who also chairs the Senate Education Committee.

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Both halal and kosher diets are religious guidelines regarding a mix of food preparation and ingredients that are considered permissible to use:

  • Kosher meals adhere to Jewish dietary law, which involves specific animal selection preparation methods and the prohibition of mixing meat and dairy.

  • Halal meals are considered permissible under Islamic Law. They include meat from animals slaughtered in a specific manner and exclude food like pork.

Research shows that many Jewish and Muslim students abide by Kosher and Halal practices.

A 2021 report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) found that 83% of American Muslims either only purchase halal-certified foods or prefer halal foods while still purchasing non-certified options if not religiously forbidden.

“There have been various times where at school I had to skip out on eating lunch because, by the time I got through the lunch line, everything I could eat was out,” said Rosa Haideri, a Muslim student from the Elk Grove Unified School District who testified at the hearing.

Another 2021 study from the Pew Research Center found approximately 22% of American Jews keep kosher in their homes.

“Every student deserves to feel supported and included at school,” Newman said. “Kids shouldn’t have to choose between hunger and adhering to their religious beliefs.”

According to the Senate of Education Committee, the bill will take effect in the 2025 -2026 school year. Schools where more than 5% of the population express a preference for halal or kosher options will be required to provide these meals.

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