Eat, Be Satisfied, and Bless: Food
Offering guests a special meal is often at the heart of a celebration — and it presents a particularly powerful opportunity to make purchases that reflect Jewish values. You, your guests, or the venue you are using may require that the food served carry a hekhsher/kosher certification verifying that it was produced according to Jewish dietary laws.
Whether or not that is the case, consider extending the Jewish tradition of sanctifying food choices by incorporating environmental and social considerations into your meal, in observance of “eco-kashrut,” the idea that Jews can bring environmental and ethical considerations, along with ritual considerations, to their decisions of what is kasher/fit to eat. (Throughout the section that follows, vendors and products marked with an H carry a kosher certification.)
Consider hiring an employment program caterer
Two local caterers train and employ low-income people. Hiring these caterers supports people who are working to learn culinary skills and to lift themselves out of poverty. (Neither is kosher-certified.)
- Fresh Start Catering trains low-income adults: www.dccentralkitchen.org, 202.234.0707.
- Through The Kitchen Door employs recent immigrants, low-income adults, and at-risk youth: www.kitchendoor.org, 301.657.1157.
Consider a vegetarian meal
Eating lower on the food chain is a very powerful way to reduce the environmental impact of your celebration. The more meat we eat, the more grain is required to feed the animals that provide that meat, and the more water and land are used to grow that grain, and the more energy necessary to harvest it and run the slaughterhouses. We save all of those resources and their related emissions by eating grains and other plants directly. You can ask most caterers to serve a dairy or vegetarian meal; or, find a list of local vegetarian and vegan caterers in The Vegetarian Guide to Washington DC and Surrounding Areas, online at www.vegdc.com .
Consider organic and local food
Even a caterer who does not buy exclusively organic or local food may be willing to source some produce for your meal this way. Ask, and explain, why local and organic food is important to you.
- For some recommendations from Co-op America for greener beer and wine: www.coopamerica.org.
Look for pastured, organic meat
If you do decide to serve meat at your celebration, consider implementing the principle of tza’ar ba’alei chayyim/ kindness to animals by purchasing meat from animals raised locally and naturally rather than in confined factory farms. There is a small but growing program, (H) KOL Foods, that is working to provide local, grass-finished organic beef and pasture-raised chicken with a hekhsher/kosher certification to the DC-area Jewish community: www.kolfoods.com, email@example.com.
If you do not need the meat for your celebration to be hekhshered/kosher certified, look for a farmers’ market offering pastured organic meats. Search by zip code at www.localharvest.org, or find a list of local markets organized by FRESHFARM at www.freshfarmmarket.org.
Look for Fair Trade Certified™ Coffee, Tea, Sugar & Chocolate
Ask the caterer if s/he would be willing to offer coffee service items that are Fair Trade Certified™. Purchasing these items helps to ensure that producer cooperatives in developing countries can support their families and improve their communities.
- (H) Many brands of Fair Trade Certified™ coffee and tea are available with a hekhsher/kosher certification: find them in the National Green Pages™, www.greenpages.org.
- (H) Equal Exchange offers Fair Trade Certified™ organic sugar packets: www.equalexchange.com, 774.776.7400.
Plan ahead to minimize waste from your celebration by donating leftover food, recycling cans and bottles, and composting food waste: see After the Simchah.