College begins offering packaged Kosher meals

by Daniel Kim | 9/12/16 11:51pm

In response to Orthodox Jewish students’ request for Orthodox-certified kosher food, the Courtyard Café at the Hopkins Center and Novack Café began to provide pre-packaged kosher meals from Vermont Kosher this past week. Since a petition for Orthodox-certified kosher food circulated last fall, with 726 supporters as of press time, a working group consisting of students and faculty members developed a report and recommendation that was accepted by the administration at the end of the summer.

The prepackaged meals include sandwiches, salads and entrées. They will be available daily in the coolers in both cafes, and deliveries will be received twice a week.

“We’re going to keep track of what we sell throughout the term to see what’s popular and if other students want to buy the products also,” said David Newlove, Dartmouth’s associate vice president for business and hospitality. “They are good products, but they are not inexpensive either. Kosher food tends to be more expensive than traditional food.”

Students have been campaigning for Orthodox-certified kosher food options since the fall of 2014. The working group began meeting at the beginning of fall 2015 and completed the report and recommendation at the end of spring.

“This has been a rather long discussion, so it by no means opens the door for simple and easy and rash discussion,” said Cameron Isen ’18, a member of the working group. “I think the school has generally been cognizant of the fact that there are people with different needs on campus and maybe if you keep pushing enough they’ll listen.”

Until this summer, the College was the only Ivy League school that did not provide Orthodox-certified kosher food. Isen said that the lack of food options for Jewish students discourages potential applicants, a key reason for the change.

“I think what it comes down to is when we got into the working groups, there was a general consensus that it was in the College’s best interest to attract the most diverse set of students as possible,” he said. “A key way to make sure that happens is to provide food for anybody who might want to enroll.”

Daniel Benjamin, director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding and chair of the working group, said that the greatest difficulty was not in coming to an agreement, but in finding a suitable vendor near the College.

“There was no one in the Upper Valley who would meet our needs,” he said. “But we were lucky enough to find Vermont Kosher, who could at least meet our initial needs for kosher food that had certification and that virtually everyone would find satisfactory.”

The working group also discussed revamping The Pavillion, the kosher kitchen in the Class of 1953 Commons operated by Tablet K, a New York-based catering service. Tablet K is not recognized by Conservative or Orthodox Judaism.

Although there are no immediate plans to update or renew The Pavillion, students will be able to pre-order Vermont Kosher meals in the Class of 1953 Commons beforehand via an online order form starting next week, similar to how gluten free meals are ordered.

In order to meet Orthodox certification standards, the kitchen requires a supervisor called a mashgiach. Benjamin said that hiring a mashgiach for The Pavillion would be difficult because it is uncertain whether someone would be committed to living in the Upper Valley. He estimated that it would cost several hundred thousand dollars a year.

“We want to be careful with any changes to The Pavillion,” he said. “There are also students who are satisfied with the way The Pavillion is right now, and we don’t want them to be discomforted with the changes.”

Vermont Kosher and other members of the working group did not respond for comment by press time.

Sara McGahan contributed reporting.