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Lawmakers Call for More Commissary Options for Kosher, Halal Groceries

Some lawmakers are calling on the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) to be more inclusive about the types of groceries it stocks at stateside and overseas bases.

Two U.S. Representatives have called on DeCA to improve access to food that is acceptable to the approximately 15 thousand Jewish and Muslim troops in the United States military.

Some wonder why the military should make allowances in this way. The mindset behind the tired old saying that if the Army wanted you to have a spouse, you would have been issued one still persists in some quarters, but changes are coming in spite of that potential resistance.

The military, after all, is considered by many to be a microcosm of America in general, and as such must adapt to the needs of those who represent the nation on the front lines.

Related: National Guard and Reserve Benefits Guide

DeCA Policy

Defense Commissary Agency officials have gone on the record saying no American servicemember should be asked to give up their faith and traditions to serve in uniform.

According to a news report by Stars and Stripes, U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Chrissy Houlahan wrote a formal letter to DeCA, asking the agency to “address issues regarding access to foods that meet religious dietary restrictions,” saying “This neglect undermines the diversity and appreciation of the military community and discourages specific religious groups from serving,”

In response, DeCA officials say, “No active-duty personnel should have to sacrifice their faith to serve in our military.” DeCA already stocks more than 16,000 kosher products and nearly 400 halal products” but notes that improving those numbers may take “several months.”

Halal and Kosher Commissary Options

DeCA plans were also drafted for more inclusive options including a DeCA Ramadan promotion to be offered in conjunction with a currently offered Passover option. The agency has also added a halal-certified beef brand to its lineup.

The Stripes article quotes DeCA officials saying religious dietary options are among the quality of life issues it’s meant to support.

“Providing an assortment that speaks to its patrons’ preferences and needs – including religious dietary options – is a vital component of DeCA’s effort to be its patrons’ grocery provider of choice.”

Sourcing the Right Food

But in military communities, especially those overseas, Jewish and Muslim troops sometimes find it difficult to find the appropriate groceries to support their needs.

DeCA wants to change that, but feedback from local customers and patience with the speed of the changes may be key to making them work. Customer feedback boxes and suggestion boxes in-store as well as online communication. Each Commissary has its own unique website listed on the DeCA official site.

At press time, a quick search of Halal and Kosher options on the Commissary official site for online shopping revealed a handful of pages, returning results for pickles, couscous, frozen Indian meals, and related products.

Objectively speaking, the volume of options (online) seems thin but as mentioned above, customer feedback at local DeCA outlets may help alleviate some of those issues over time.

Related: National Guard and Reserve Benefits Guide

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.