Amongst the large crowd of trade buyers at Kosherfest 25 were chefs and buyers from yeshivas (Jewish day schools and seminaries). Foodservice distributors say that the yeshiva community accounts for a significant percentage of their sales.
Daniel Levy, mashgiach and assistant chef at Beth Medrash Govoha (BMG) of Lakewood, NJ, was one of those buyers. One of the largest yeshivas in the world, it is home to over 6,500 students. For Levy, preparing three meals a day for 6,500 young men is a daunting, complex task. As mashgiach and assistant chef, Levy is responsible for overall kitchen production, including inspecting produce for infestation. The BMG kitchen dispenses 80,000 cups of coffee per week, 1,000 pounds of chicken per lunch, 1,000,000 eggs a year, and 1,000 lbs of potatoes for one batch of French fries.
Like the rest of the kosher food market, Levy has noticed marked changes in general eating habits of the students.
“In the two and a half years I’ve been at BMG, students have become more health conscious. We get a lot of requests for gluten free products, requests that were rare a few years ago.”
Similar to many others who were at Kosherfest, Levy estimates that the student body will become more aware of other health concerns, such as the use of unhealthy oils, in the years to come. He will also be integrating a larger variety of whole wheat breads and pastas into his menu.”
The Yeshiva community, say distributors, has become “big business” all over the country contributing to the overall dramatic expansion of foodservice in education, healthcare, and, of course catering and restaurants. Said one distributor: “With the exception of a few weeks during the year, the yeshiva community is good and steady business.”