'Certified Kosher Tuna' will be produced at Star Kist Samoa's Atuu plant next month
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — StarKist Samoa will be producing at the Satala plant next month, more than 100 tons of “certified kosher tuna” products for the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York, dba The Jewish Education Project, which “is sending kosher supervisors to the South Pacific in order to provide U.S. government-subsidized tuna on the menu for approximately 50,000 Jewish students from low income families in New York,” according to the New York City based education group in a Tuesday news release.
The Jewish Education Project had first informed Samoa News early this month about the contract with StarKist Samoa, with an official statement to follow later with specific details, once all the information is confirmed.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, StarKist Inc., corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist said a tour of the plant is scheduled for next week, at which time they will provide comments on this special project.
According to the Jewish Education Project news release, the StarKist plant in Pago Pago “will be producing 141 tons of tuna in only four days.”
Asked if the StarKist contract is just for four days of production, The Board of Jewish Education director of School Foods Services, Jonathan D. Meyer responded that the “contract is for 11,520 cases of tuna” and the shipment to New York should go out next month.
Asked if there are plans to expand the StarKist contract in the future, if needed, Meyer told Samoa News that the “11,520 cases [of tuna] are for one year. We intend to do it annually.”
“There were many moving parts in this effort,” Meyer said in the news release.
He explained that the coordinated work of the US Department of Agriculture, the New York State Office of General Services, the different vendors involved, “and our dedicated staff here at the School Foods Department, all combined to help alleviate, in a very large way, some of the burden on our schools and parent body.”
“This is a wonderful sign that with good government, cooperative corporate partners, and the hard work of many individuals, we can accomplish great things for our students,” he said.
The news release says the School Food Services Department serves as liaison between over 100 private Jewish schools and the National School Lunch Program, a program that provides government support for schools that serve students from poor families.
The Jewish Education Project is sending three rabbis to serve as mashgichim, kosher supervisors, to American Samoa in the first week of November.
“The mashgichim are conducting their kosher certification inspections under the supervision of the The Jewish Education Project’s 613 Kosher Council which represents multiple Hasidic and Orthodox movements,” it says. “The council is led by rabbis Dovid Thau and Dovid Aryeh Ehrenfeld. Without this certification, the 100+ schools would not have access to subsidized tuna produced at the standard for kosher required by these schools.”
It explains that the “mashgichim are flying 21 hours” to the StarKist plant in Pago Pago “to ensure that Hasidic and other Orthodox schools in New York can comply with a recent change to federal regulations, which mandates American-manufactured ingredients for this program.”
“By sourcing tuna from a factory in American Samoa, the schools are complying with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ‘Buy American Act’ provision, which mandates that ingredients must be sourced from and manufactured in U.S. states or territories,” the release points out.
The Orthodox Union assisted the Jewish Education Project in preparing the mashgichim for this important job by sharing with them the layout of the plant, so the team would have enough members.
“To meet Jewish dietary laws, particularly standards commonly followed in Hasidic and Orthodox communities, the council is delegating a team of three mashgichim, led by Rabbi Binyamin Gruber, to fire up the boilers, ensuring that the tuna is produced as bishul yisrael, cooked by Jewish workers,” the release explained.
And the “certified kosher tuna” should be available to thousands of Jewish students, many of who come from low-income families, by January 2019.
The “newly certified kosher tuna” will travel on a container ship from American Samoa before arriving in New Jersey and ultimately in Jewish day school lunch rooms primarily in New York State, but also in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and elsewhere. Information on The Jewish Education Project can be found online at <www.jewishedproject.org>.