New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) announced that tuna processed in the United States will now meet the community’s koshrous standards. Since January, Hikind has been working with the heads of the State Education and Child Nutrition programs to assure that yeshivas will not lose funding for lunch programs. Hikind was initially contacted by a number of yeshivas regarding their concerns about the National School Lunch Program “Buy American” provision. Specifically, there were concerns regarding how this provision relates to the purchase and serving of tuna fish that meet the community’s standards. The provision, which came into effect last June, requires schools to purchase domestic commodities or products made in the U.S.
“The Buy American provision is problematic for many yeshivas because, until now, there was no tuna processed in the U.S. that met our yeshiva’s kashrus standards,” Hikind explained. “I argued that this issue needed to be addressed in terms of cultural sensitivity. Our children need the protein that tuna provides, and our parents and yeshivas cannot be asked to compromise their standards. At the end of the day, we answer to a higher authority than even the Federal government. If kashrus standards are below what we insist upon, that tuna will not be served in our yeshivas.
“Thanks to the monumental efforts of the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, all the parties are now in agreement, and the order for the higher standard of kashrus for StarKist tuna made in America has been approved. The BJE will send mashgichim to American Samoa early next year to supervise the production of enough tuna for all children in yeshivas in New York State and elsewhere for the next year. It will be available to the schools as a free USDA commodity. We were happy to play a role in resolving this issue. This is a great example of government working with our community to resolve a problem.”
Assemblyman Hikind thanked Jonathan D. Meyer, Director of School Food Services Program, and Sara Seligson, a Managing Director at BJE for their tireless efforts in resolving the problem, as well as the New York State Office of General Services and the USDA.