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May 29, 2024

Pressley, Houlahan Seek Improved Access to Kosher, Halal Meals for Servicemembers, Families with Religious Dietary Requirements

During Military Appreciation Month, Lawmakers Request Defense Commissary Agency Increase Food Options That Meet Religious Dietary Restrictions

Text of Letter (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Today, during Military Appreciation Month, Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) wrote to the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) calling for increased access to foods that meet religious dietary requirements, like kosher and halal options, for servicemembers and their families.

“It is critical the Department of Defense ensures that active-duty personnel of all religions, including Islam and Judaism, are able to access foods that respect their faith traditions,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to DeCA Director John E. Hall.

In their letter, the lawmakers highlighted the 8.3 million households with military families that rely on commissaries to provide groceries while deployed. However, there is limited integration, supply, and promotion of certified kosher and halal options in commissaries for tens of thousands of beneficiaries who practice a religion with unique dietary requirements.

“This neglect undermines the diversity and appreciation of the military community and discourages specific religious groups from serving. No active-duty personnel should have to sacrifice their faith to serve in our military,” the lawmakers continued. “Members of our Armed Forces deserve access to nutritious meals no matter how they worship and no matter where they serve.”

The lawmakers encouraged the agency to work collaboratively with servicemembers and their families to advertise items as they are made available, incorporate items in meal solutions and special observances promotions, and ensure availability during religious holidays.

The letter is also endorsed by the following organizations:

“The U.S. military draws from a recruiting pool that represents a broad cross-section of America. And commissaries are a cornerstone in the Pentagon’s efforts to battle food insecurity for the troops and their families by offering heavily discounted prices for the millions of commissary patrons,” said Steve Rossetti, President of the American Logistics Association. “These stores and the supporting industry constantly strive to offer a wide range of products to serve the diverse military population across the globe in areas where commercial alternatives are limited.  We need to ensure that all consumer tastes and preferences including religious dietary options are represented in the commissary offerings.”

“Military families need access to healthy, familiar food no matter where they live in the world,” said Besa Pinchotti, CEO of the National Military Family Association. “But just as important, they need access to food that adheres to their religious dietary requirements. We appreciate Representative Pressley’s request to DeCA to ensure all military families, regardless of religious affiliation have access to the food they need.”

A copy of the letter can be found here.