The Importance of Organizational Food Policies for Jewish Institutions

vegetables on a counter in a commercial kitchen

Jewish institutions–like Hillels, synagogues, and summer camps–often serve as hubs of community life. Within these spaces, we practice and celebrate our shared values and traditions. Central to these communal experiences is the food we share, which nourishes both body and soul. 

An organizational food policy serves as a guide that outlines how food is sourced, prepared, and served within institutions. Some Jewish organizations already have established food practices, such as preferred kashrut standards or accommodations for dietary requests on an as-needed basis. Formalizing best practices into an organizational food policy can improve kitchen and food operations while expressing a community’s values.

Why Develop an Organizational Food Policy?

Developing an organizational food policy is an opportunity to embody Jewish values through the lens of communal dietary choices. It reflects a community’s commitment to sustainability, justice, compassion, and inclusivity. By creating an official food policy we turn these values into long-term commitments to be implemented across all of an organization’s activities. 

Moreover, plant-forward food policies ensure that everyone feels welcome and valued within our communal spaces. By reducing or eliminating ingredients with common allergens–like milk and eggs–from menus, we can create inherently more inclusive dining experiences. Accommodating diverse dietary preferences and needs promotes a sense of belonging for all members of the community. 

DefaultVeg: A Plant-Based Nudge Strategy

DefaultVeg, also called “greener by default” or “plant-based by default,” is a simple yet powerful nudge strategy that promotes plant-forward eating. Essentially, it involves making plant-based options the default choice in communal settings. 

Making plant-based food the default can help reshape what people in our communities think of as a “normal” meal. Whether at a conference or a Shabbat dinner, this approach recognizes that individuals are influenced by the choices presented to them and that their choices have a huge impact. 

By serving plant-based meals by default, your organization offers the chance for community members to easily make more humane and sustainable food choices. With a DefaultVeg food policy, everyone can choose the meal that’s right for them.

Bring Jewish Values to the Table 

For centuries, the question of what’s kosher, or “fit” for Jewish communities has guided our daily actions, religious identities, and moral values. Today, industrialized animal agricultural practices like factory farming, are the norm for 99% of animals in our food system. Kosher-certified animal products are no exception. Along with the lives of farmed animals, intensive farming practices have dire consequences for our world. 

Reducing the animal products our community serves and choosing higher-welfare meat, when possible, embodies the Jewish value of tza’ar ba’alei chayim–preventing unnecessary suffering to living creatures. By embracing sustainable practices such as sourcing local ingredients, prioritizing plant-based foods, and minimizing food waste, organizations exemplify the Jewish values of bal tashchit–avoiding wasteful destruction–and sh’mirat ha’adamah–protecting the Earth.

From animal welfare to environmental justice to public health, there are many Jewish values-based reasons to commit to alternatives to industrial animal agriculture. Through plant-forward organizational food policies, we turn these commitments into action.

Take Action for Your Community

Jewish tradition offers a rich tapestry of values and teachings that emphasize ethical eating. Developing an organizational food policy rooted in this tradition allows institutions to authentically embody their core beliefs through their food practices.

JIFA works with Jewish institutions to build a more humane and sustainable future, starting with the food we buy and serve to our communities. We offer resources, education, and a free consultation to help your community establish a values-based food policy. Together, we will create a more humane, sustainable, and compassionate future for all beings.

Contact JIFA to schedule your free consultation.

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