The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it will increase by 50% the number of kosher food products that are available in the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, a federal program that provides surplus food to food banks and pantries. Jewish Federations have advocated for this important increase that will go into effect in January 2023. The items that will be added to the kosher list are canned green beans, corn and pears. Additionally, USDA has made efforts to add a wider range of kosher certifications and more clearly mark those items for easier identification, policies that Jewish Federations also advocated for.
Jewish Federations and agencies around the country receive food from this program to feed community members in need of assistance. However, kosher options have been quite limited. In September 2021, a group of Members of Congress sent a letter urging the USDA to take action to expand the options for kosher and halal food. “We believe you should provide a safety net for our communities, be they small business owners, essential workers, gig workers, or refugees, so that they too can access nutritious meals for their families,” the letter stated.
As a result of the letter, the USDA invited faith institutions to provide feedback on the dietary needs of their community members. Members of Jewish Federations’ public affairs team met with USDA officials, and the forthcoming changes that will be implemented directly reflect requests from the field regarding kosher needs that Jewish Federations voiced.
“Especially as the number of Americans facing food insecurity continues to grow, Jewish Federations remain committed to working with our inter-faith partners, service providers and the government to ensure that people of all faiths and backgrounds have access to proper sustenance that meets their religious and cultural needs,” said Darcy Hirsh, Managing Director of Public Affairs at Jewish Federations of North America.