Health & Sustainability: Food Choices

At Beacon Hebrew Alliance’s green kiddushes, congregants sanctify Shabbat with organic grape juice and wine.

“Eat that which is good, and let your soul delight itself.” -Isaiah 55

In Jewish tradition, cooking has always been about more than just preparing food. The various Jewish laws of kashrut -- keeping kosher --  that govern how food is prepared and consumed has shaped our people’s relationship to cooking for generations.Today, cooking “Jewishly” can mean more than cooking our ancestors’ recipes or following kashrut; cooking Jewishly can mean cooking ethically, cooking healthily, and bringing our community together.

Choosing to cook meals for our own families and communities instead of purchasing prepared food is a powerful way to build community, engage in tradition, and make healthier, more sustainable choices in what we eat.

“A teacher from Berkeley...tells about a time when her students washed and trimmed and cut up ingredients and made a big salad. ‘Now wait,’ she said, ‘before we start eating, let’s stop and think about the people who tilled the ground, planted the seeds, and harvested the vegetables.’ The kids stood up at their desks and gave the salad a standing ovation.” – Frances Moore Lappé, author of "Diet for a Small Planet."

Most fruits and vegetables in the produce aisle nowadays are large, unblemished, vibrantly colored...and full of chemicals. That’s because they are often grown with exorbitant amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to ensure that they look as appetizing as possible, even though they have probably travelled thousands of miles to arrive at their destination. What’s less appetizing are the damaging effects these chemicals can have on your body, the health of the workers that grew them, and the environment surrounding them. When you buy certified organic produce, you are purchasing foods with fewer pesticides. Yes, buying organic often comes with a higher price tag, but you’re investing in a more sustainable and biodiverse food system. Start your search with Environmental Working Group’s list of dirty produce.

Have you checked your nutrition labels lately? Most of us know that too much sugar is dangerous. Yet corporations continue to add processed sugars to many of the products we see in the supermarket despite the risks of obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and additional health problems that come with it. Sodas and cookies are obviously sugary, but sugar can be more difficult to avoid when corporations add it to products we wouldn't expect, like cereals, breads, yogurts and fruit cups. Corporations can be sneaky, too: they use 61 different names for sugar in processed foods. Sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and maltose all mean the same thing—unhealthy and dangerously empty calories.

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Organic Food

Post labels demarcating organic food and drinks
1 points
Education
Purchase organic drinks for at least 50% of meals
2 points
Action
Purchase organic grains for at least 50% of meals
2 points
Action
Host an event about the benefits of organic food
2 points
Education
Educate about organic food
2 points
Education
More info
Purchase organic produce for at least 50% of meals
3 points
Action
Lobby for at least one local grocery store to source more organic food
3 points
Advocacy
Start or join a campaign to make organic food more accessible in your community
3 points
Advocacy

Unprocessed Food

Reduce the amount of canned or highly processed items served
3 points
Action
Create a cooking team to prepare fresh food each week
4 points
Action
Host an event about the benefits of unprocessed food
2 points
Education
Educate about unprocessed food
2 points
Education
More info
Encourage members to cook, both at their homes and in your facility
2 points
Education
Host potluck events that feature home-cooked dishes
2 points
Action
Increase the amount of fresh and unprocessed food served
3 points
Action

Sugar

Educate about sugar
2 points
Education
More info
Use items other than food for rewards and celebrations in children's programming
3 points
Action
Serve snacks that are low in added sugars, especially at children's programs
3 points
Action
Start or join a campaign about the risks of high sugar consumption
3 points
Advocacy
Reduce the number of food items served with added sugar
4 points
Action
Reduce the amount of soda or other beverages with added sugar
4 points
Action

Food Policy

Create a list of preferred stores and caterers that align with your values
2 points
Education
Start or join a campaign for healthier and more sustainable food
3 points
Advocacy
Develop and implement a food policy
5 points
Action
Post signage about your food policy
1 points
Education
Educate about including values in food choices
2 points
Education
More info
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Related Resources

Save The Food

Food is being wasted at an alarming rate. And we – consumers – are the largest source of it. More than grocery stores and restaurants combined. But there’s good news: we can do something about it. Everything we need is right here (and in our fridges).

Pickling Workshop

Make homemade pickles

“Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce”

The Environmental Working Group creates a guide to pesticides in produce, coining the phrases “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” for lists of the dirtiest and cleanest fruits and vegetables.

GMO foods and Jewish law resources

Articles and resources focused on looking at Genetically Modified foods through Jewish law and traditions.