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Red Cross looks at providing kosher, halal food
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The American Red Cross has been looking at ways it can improve its response to the next disaster and it’s found some surprising answers.
Joel Sullivan, CEO of the Middle Tennessee chapter of the American Red Cross, said changing demographics have led to a demand for food that meets the specific cultural and religious needs.
And Muslim leaders have also asked the charity to look into providing separate spaces for men and women at their shelters.
“In a disaster, there are very limited resources, but we try to plan menus to accommodate as best as we can,” Sullivan said. “We learned during the flood that there are dietary needs out there that there wasn’t a demand for in this area before.”
Rabbi Saul Strosberg of Congregation Sherith Israel in Nashville told The Tennessean the fact that the complaints are so specific is a good thing.
“It’s impressive,” Strosberg said. “They did such a good job that people are complaining about the food. That means they covered all the necessary ground.”
The recommendations came as Red Cross staff began calling community leaders to learn if there were things they could have done better after the major flooding in May that killed 22 people around the state and caused more than $2 billion in damage in Nashville alone.
The Middle Tennessee chapter, which serves 17 counties surrounding Nashville, is now looking for vendors that can supply vegetarian, kosher and halal meals.
Kosher meals are prepared to Jewish standards that include rules for the way an animal is slaughtered. Of the 8,000 Jewish people in greater Nashville, about 500 have strict kosher diets, Rabbi Strosberg said.
Santosh Kortian is the manager of Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine on West End Avenue. During the flood, the India Association of Nashville called him to provide meat-free meals to shelters.
Kortian said he hopes never to be in an emergency situation so dire that he has to compromise his vegetarianism.
Amir Arain, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Nashville, estimates that there are 25,000 Muslims living in Middle Tennessee.
He said most Muslims will eat anything in a disaster situation, as allowed by their religion. But he appreciates the efforts of the Red Cross to look for vendors that can supply meals made with halal meats, in which the animals are slaughtered in a specific way.
Arain said a bigger concern for Muslims is emergency shelter. Muslim women need an area to stay in where they are separated from the men.
This article was published January 23, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.