Last week, the California based advocacy group Roots of Change posted a video called “Food Movement Rising”. This inspiring video reminds us of the challenges that we face and the responses that we can make to our contemporary food system.
The video encourages people who are passionate about the food movement to connect with each other and work together to make a better and brighter future. Michael Dimock, President of Roots of Change, has presented at the Hazon Food Conference in the past, and his organization continues to inspire our work. Here at Hazon, the video serves as a great reminder as to how we can make change in our food system through our Jewish institutions.
Here in our office and at our events, Hazon has begun the conversation about what it means to serve food with our values in mind. For over 3,000 years Jewish people have kept kosher — which is to say, we’ve asked whether a particular food was fit for us to eat. 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 (national brand names) 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.
The following Hazon food values are listed in alphabetical order.
Cost Effective: 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.
Delicious – Food should be inspirationally delicious. Enough said!
Ethical: 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.
Healthy: 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 (celebration), and sustainable for a bike rider, 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.
Kosher: 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. Hekshers should be provided so that people can decide for themselves if the food adheres to their own standards of kashrut. Non-hekshered products can be served if necessary, as long as it contains no explicitly traif ingredients and is clearly labeled as non- hekshered. 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.
Low Waste: We aim to serve food that does not waste our precious resources. We will be conscious of the amount and type of packaging that is used to contain the food 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.
Transparency/Education: 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.
We often are required to prioritize one (or more) of our food values over another as we are planning our events. As we work towards a healthy and 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.
Here on the Jew and the Carrot, we will be documenting how we continue to negotiate and find the balance among these different values. We invite you to join the conversation. Do we have the right values? Are we making the right compromises? How do you balance differing food values in your everyday lives?
Ultimately, there is not any one answer to these questions. But just in the act of asking the questions and thinking critically about how we vote with our fork will continue to bring our community to greater heights.
Daniel Infeld is the Food Programs Fellow at Hazon, and a graduate of Clark University. Daniel loves cooking, eating, smelling, and learning about food, especially when it leads to spending time with friends and loved ones around the Shabbat table. He is looking forward to spending time with you at the Hazon Food Conference