Agudath Israel of America is welcoming the new webpage set up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on “Kosher Foods in TEFAP.”

TEFAP - The Emergency Food Assistance Program -- is utilized by food pantries and food banks to provide surplus food to the needy. The development of the webpage comes on the heels of the agency’s recent outreach to the Jewish community regarding volume and nutritional deficiencies in the kosher food available under TEFAP and the subsequent expansion of the numbers and types of kosher-certified foods in the program.

“The webpage provides valuable information, not only as to what kosher options are available, but also in regard to the details of kosher-certification and the preferences of the kosher consumer,” noted Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s Vice President for Government Affairs. “It will provide to food pantries and food banks important guidance that will assist them in making appropriate choices to better address kosher needs.”

Over the past few months, Agudath Israel and organizational allies have had ongoing and extensive communication with USDA. The discussions provided vital information on the details and nuances of kosher dietary laws, and the kosher food industry, as well as on the demographics of the kosher-observant community. This input was utilized in the development of the webpage.

One particular discussion point included in the webpage emphasized the importance of working with community leaders and kosher food experts in making determinations as to certified and non-certified foods and the acceptability of particular items when questions would arise.

The USDA officials acknowledged the assistance and cooperation of Agudath Israel and other groups involved, expressing that they truly appreciated the support and collaborative efforts put forth to make this a reality.

The appreciation went both ways. “We deeply value the work and input of others who played a role in this effort, including the important advocacy of the Jewish Federations of North America, which have been a consistent voice in support of the kosher TEFAP program,” Rabbi Cohen added. “Above all, of course, we thank the USDA for its hard work and commitment to this issue. Its sensitivity to our community and our religious dietary requirements – and its determination to ‘do it right’ – will enable greater participation of needy Jewish families in these programs.”