ram lunchline 102523CHICAGO – Three months after Governor JB Pritzker vetoed a bill that would provide halal and kosher food options to students upon request in Illinois public schools in addition to those options being available at state facilities and the University of Illinois Hospital, State Senator Ram Villivalam passed a measure that was agreed upon by stakeholders and the governor.

“I am proud of our collaborative work to make the technical changes requested by the governor to ensure the successful implementation of this legislation,” said Villivalam (D-Chicago). “We are recognizing the cultural needs of our community and this is a big step for families who eat kosher or halal. Everyone deserves to have an option that fits their needs and feel included.”

Villivalam worked alongside the governor to pass an agreed-upon bill that will provide culturally appropriate lunches to those who request.

“This bill will allow students to have halal and kosher lunch options regardless of where they reside in the state of Illinois,” said State Representative Kevin Olickal (D-Skokie). “This is yet another example of Illinois' commitment to being a welcoming and accepting state.”

Specifically in public schools, the legislation would require the Illinois State Board of Education to enter into statewide master contracts from vendors across the state and give school districts access to the contract so they can more efficiently provide meals to students.

“As a state that promotes and respects diversity, accommodating religious dietary restrictions is an important public good,” said Lonnie Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund. “In addition to addressing food insecurity and food choice in school settings, we believe that the Faith by Plate Act will help make Illinois a more respectful, inclusive, and supportive place for all.”

To bring halal and kosher foods to Illinois institutions, Villivalam worked with the governor’s office and stakeholders to develop a plan that meets dietary needs and provides options to those involved with bringing these lunches to Illinois schools and facilities.

“Since day one, my administration has been committed to ensuring that Illinois is an inclusive state for everyone—that includes ensuring our students’ religious dietary restrictions and needs are respected when they’re at school,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud to support this legislation that’s moving our state another step forward on the path to greater equity.”

The prepackaged meals for schools would be required to meet both state and federal nutritional guidelines for school lunch programs.

“We are extremely pleased with this agreement that would provide students with meal options that comply with their religious dietary needs,” said Rabbi Shlomo Soroka. “We thank the governor and his team for working in good faith with Agudath Israel, Senator Villivalam, our Muslim partners and other stakeholders in reaching this milestone.”   

The bill would only require a school district to provide the meals as long as ISBE is able to enter into any master contracts they may have.

“This was a collaboration of the Muslim and Jewish communities to create an inclusive space for students of faith in schools,” said Maaria Mozaffar, who serves on the advocacy and policy team for the Muslim Civic Coalition.  “We are proud of the work we did together and thank the Governor for making the needs of faith based students in our state a priority. All students from all backgrounds and faiths should know they belong.”

Senate Bill 457 passed the Senate Wednesday and heads to the House for further consideration.