Oct 25, 2018

Kosher supervisors trip to American Samoa ensures Jewish schools access to tuna

American Samoa

The Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, dba The Jewish Education Project, is sending kosher supervisors to the South Pacific to provide U.S. government-subsidized tuna for approximately 50,000 Jewish students from low income families. 

The Jewish Education Project’s School Food Services Department serves as liaison between over 100 private Jewish schools and the National School Lunch Program, a program that provides government support for schools that serve students from poor families. 

They are sending three rabbis to serve as mashgichim, kosher supervisors, to American Samoa the first week of November. The mashgichim are from the 613 Kosher Council, an independent organization which represents multiple Hasidic and Orthodox movements, and is led by HaRav Dovid Aryeh Ehrenfeld and HaRav Dovid Thau.  The team that will be doing the work in American Samoa will be led by Rabbi Binyamin Gruber.  They will fire up the boilers, ensuring that the tuna is produced as bishul yisrael, cooked by Jewish workers, and they will be present during the entire production.  Without this certification, the 100+ schools would not have access to subsidized tuna produced at the standard for kosher they require.

The mashgichim are flying 21 hours to the StarKist tuna factory in Pago Pago, American Samoa to ensure that the schools comply with a recent change to federal regulations, which mandates American-manufactured ingredients for this program.  Since American Samoa is an American territory, the schools will comply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘Buy American Act’ provision.  The Orthodox Union assisted the Jewish Education Project in preparing the mashgichim for this important job by sharing with them the layout of the plant, so that the team would have enough members on it.  The plant will be producing 141 tons of tuna in only four days.

Certified kosher tuna should be available to thousands of Jewish students by January 2019. The newly certified kosher tuna will travel on a container ship from American Samoa before arriving in New Jersey and ultimately in Jewish day school lunch rooms primarily in New York State, but also in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and elsewhere. 

“There were many moving parts in this effort. The coordinated work of the USDA, the New York State Office of General Services, the different vendors involved, and our dedicated staff here at the School Foods Department, all combined to help alleviate, in a very large way, some of the burden on our schools and parent body. This is a wonderful sign that with good government, cooperative corporate partners, and the hard work of many individuals, we can accomplish great things for our students,” said Jonathan Meyer, Director of the School Foods Department of The Jewish Education Project.

About The Jewish Education Project School Food Services:
Established in 1947, the School Food Services department of The Jewish Education Project has been helping Orthodox schools stay compliant with two complex and sometimes conflicting sets of laws: the National School Lunch Program and kosher dietary laws. 

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