In our society, all too often the readily available and familiar sources for our food prioritize uniform quality and economies of scale over taste, nutrition, environmental health, and local communities. At Hazon, we have developed a list of food values that we strive to reach when we are planning food at all Hazon events, programs, and meetings. However, we often are required to prioritize one (or more) of our food values over another. As we work towards a healthier and more sustainable food system where we will be able to meet all our food values all the time, we want to be transparent about the food choices we are making along the way, where we are falling short in meeting all our values, and how we are working to do better next time.
In practice, many of these values conflict. Do we provide kosher grass-fed beef but transport it 3,000 miles? Do we have superbly cooked food at board meetings but have to spend an unreasonably large amount to do so? Do we incorporate Jewish cultural traditions into our food orders even if the food isn’t sustainably grown or raised? How far can we reasonably go in finding out where food comes from? If 2 people at a 500 person event will only eat a particular level of kosher certification, do we provide special food for them, or significantly alter the food for everyone? What if it were 20 people rather than 2? Balance is a central and overarching value for us. In our determination to do the best we can, we understand that we can’t always meet all of our criteria. But we will continue to try to do so!
We hope that these values and reports of putting the values in action will inspire your institution to take further steps to make healthier and more sustainable choices. For tips and support on this journey, check out the Hazon Food Guide and Food Audit Toolkit.
The following Hazon food values are listed in alphabetical order.
As Michael Pollan (and others) have suggested, we should not shy away from paying more than we’re used to for good-quality food that fits our values. That said, we have to make our food choices fit into our overall budget.
Food should be inspirationally delicious. Enough said!
We care not only about the food but about the circumstances of the people who produced, prepared or served it, and when we eat animals we want to know how they lived and how they died. In general we believe that informed choices ultimately change behavior. When purchasing foods often grown in exploitative environments in other countries, we always try to source from companies that commit to paying their workers fair wages, and supporting community development and empowerment. Coffee, chocolate, tea, and bananas should be fair trade certified.
Hazon believes in serving healthy, nourishing food that is pesticide free. In general our society consumes too much refined white sugar and flour, high fructose corn syrup, and salt. However, celebrations and holidays are often marked by “out of the ordinary” foods – especially sweets and snacks. Additionally, our outdoor adventure programs may require participants to eat foods heavy in sugar and salt to maintain their energy and electrolyte levels. We aim to find a balance between serving foods worthy of the simcha, and necessary for sustenance during exercise, while maintaining a focus on whole, fresh and nourishing foods. We think there is value in working extra hard to produce treats that are healthier than what is normal in our society.
Because inclusive Jewish community is central to what we do and believe in, the meals we serve should be accessible to people across the Jewish spectrum. Food should be kosher. Hechshers should be provided so that people can decide for themselves if the food adheres to their own standards of kashrut. Non-hechshered products can be served if necessary, as long as it contains no explicitly traif ingredients and is clearly labeled as non-hechshered. When food is prepared under the supervision of a Mashgiach (a kosher supervisor) their credentials shall be clearly displayed in the dining hall and/or made available to interested participants ahead of time.
We aim to serve food that has the lowest-possible carbon impact, including the amount and type of packaging that is used to contain it during transit, the dishes and utensils that we eat on, and how we clean/dispose of those after a meal. In addition, we consider the miles that our food travels to get to our table, thus emphasizing a menu that changes with the seasons. We’re in favor of serving home-made foods when the event is small enough and where appropriate kashrut arrangements can be made.
Lower on the food chain
Whenever possible, we serve whole, unprocessed vegetarian foods including hummus, fresh fruit, etc. We usually serve meat at least – and at most – once at our multi-day events, but not always and not as a matter of course; we believe that vegetarian meals can be fully satisfying and we aim to provide delicious examples of this!
Organically and/or Sustainably-produced
Organic labels let you know that fruits and vegetables were produced without prohibited chemicals and are not GMO. In some cases, smaller farms aren’t certified organic, but produce their food in a way that is sustainable and environmentally conscious. We’re in favor of supporting the organic movement, and we’re also in favor of supporting farmers who are growing with sustainable farming practices, especially if they are nearby (which helps us meet our low-carbon goals and support local food economies).
We believe in using food as a teaching tool and a conversation starter. And we believe in empowering individuals to make choices according to their own values. So being transparent about the choices we make is critical to our food work.
Food Values, Policies, and Best Practices
va’achalta va’savata u’veirachtaa / you shall eat, and be satisfied and make a blessing
Hazon works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier and more sustainable world for all.
Though the modern food system poses new challenges for us, we’re heirs to 3,000 years of tradition about keeping kosher, which is to say, we’ve asked whether our food was fit for us to eat for generations. And we understand that our food choices make a difference not only to ourselves but to the people who produce our food and the land and the animals that provide it.
In our society, all too often the readily available and familiar sources for our food prioritize uniform quality and economies of scale over taste, nutrition, environmental health, and local communities.
We recognize that in trying to address our contemporary and traditional food values, a tension often arises. Is it better to choose the kosher option instead of the sustainable one? Local instead of organic? It is when these two values are in tension that the interesting conversations take place.
Hazon established a series of food policies and best practices that were guided by our contemporary and traditional food values. These policies and practices are reflected in all our food-related decisions both within the New York City office and at every Hazon event, whether it is a bike ride, food conference, or meeting. It encompasses what foods we purchase, serve, and eat; and what materials we use to prepare, serve, and clean up afterwards.
We hope that these guidelines will help you start your own conversation and inform the decisions in your institution or organization.
When planning seven day Israel bike rides or evening volunteer leadership meetings, the Hazon staff strives to provide kosher, healthy, delicious, ethical, organic, local, low-carbon meals. In practice, here are concrete guidelines to use when planning a Hazon event or meeting.
In practice we distinguish between small-scale and informal contexts and larger-scale and formal ones:
- In the Hazon office, staff can bring in non-kosher food from their kitchens for internal consumption, but it must be clearly marked as not kosher.
- Beyond the Hazon office, when Hazon is serving food, food should be hechshered, with the hechsher provided so that people can decide for themselves if the food is of the kosher standard that they adhere to. In the event that a product is not hechshered (but includes no ingredients that are explicitly treif) the product can still be served as long as it is made obvious and unmistakable that there is no hashgacha.
Staff Lunches/ Meetings
- Bringing your own lunch in reusable containers is the greenest and potentially healthiest way to eat at work since you can control exactly what is in your food
- When placing orders out of the office:
- Order carefully avoid over purchasing food
- Make sure to ask for no napkins/ plastic utensils/ plates
- If there are plastic or aluminum containers, reuse or recycle them
- Use water pitchers and glasses in meetings. If you need a change from water, avoid sugary sodas and fruit punches. Instead, serve seltzers or 100% real fruit juices. For celebrations, scotch, wine, and/or beer are all staff favorites.
- Use the list at the end of this paper of recommended places to order from in NYC
- Buy fresh – purchase local and/ or organic, kosher fruit, veggies, and other farmers market treats
- Buy non perishables in bulk ex: nuts, dried fruit, granola and avoid using plastic bags to hold your bulk items; cloth bags and reusable containers work just as well
- Buy fair trade, organic chocolate
- Read the ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t bring it to the office/ meeting/ event
- Purchase fair trade and organic
Plates / Utensils
- During the summer of 2009, Hazon purchased glass dishes to replace disposable and compostable dishes that were being used. Use the dishes!
- Place cans, plastics, and glass jars in the appropriate recycling receptacle
- Place paper and cardboard in the appropriate recycling receptacle
- Strive to have a litter-free meal whether you are serving 5, 50, 500 or more
- Use eco friendly dish soap and sponges
- Avoid paper towel use, instead use dish towels or a drying rack
- Use a small amount of water and soap when washing plates, a little goes a long way!
- Keep a container (labeled compost) in the freezer and put leftover food, coffee grounds, and tea bags into the container
- Drop off compost at Union Square (or other local farmers market that collects compost) every week
- Energy Star refrigerator
- Low flow tap for sink faucet
- Water filtration system that does not rely on bottles or disposable filters