New York officials are being urged by the Met Council on Jewish Poverty this week to allocate at least 20% of the food in a program meant to support food pantries in the state as kosher and halal food.

The state has sought to boost food pantries and access to nutritious meals through the Nourish New York program as need has sharply increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Met Council, in a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, called for more support for people who have religious dietary needs and observances.

The group operates the largest food bank and pantry network in the country.

"New York has invested millions of dollars in mitigating food insecurity and ensuring that no New Yorker goes hungry," the Met Council wrote in the letter. "As such, it is unacceptable that any New Yorker should have to choose between lifesaving medication or food for themselves and their children. To prevent such an outcome, we respectfully request that 20% of Nourish NY funding, or $10 million, be directed to Met Council to meet the needs of kosher and halal observant New Yorkers."

More than two dozen state lawmakers previously wrote a letter this year making a similar request for kosher and halal assistance in the budget.

The Met Council has seen an increase in the need for kosher and halal-certified at least 20% of emergency food programs in New York City, the group said. All told, 15.2 million pounds of food were delivered by the group in New York City in 2020 alone.