"Be a mensch and let us bensch" - it's summer camp time and many youth movements will be bensching (saying Grace after Meals). The prayer originates in the tripartite commandment, "You shall eat, you shall be satisfied and you shall bless." Eating is pleasurable, but to be satisfied, we should ask ourselves how the food arrives on our plates.
For example, the trial of Sholom Rubashkin of Agriprocessors, the meat producer in the United States, put kosher food production in the limelight. In 2010, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison on multiple counts of fraud. It ruined community relations in Postville, Iowa, the centre of Agriprocessors' operations, and issues involving animal treatment, food safety, environmental safety, child labour, and hiring of illegal workers were highlighted.
In 2008, Magen Tzedek, an ethical seal of kashrut, was launched and its website explains that products carrying it "reflect the highest standard on a variety of important issues: employee wages and benefits, health and safety, animal welfare, corporate transparency and environmental impact.... Magen Tzedek demonstrates that ritual and ethical commandments have an equal place at our tables."
Another famine is unfolding in Eastern Africa: how do we respond when the political and economic forces driving it are so overwhelming? In London, GIFT encourages customers in kosher food stores to buy an extra item for a family in need, in Los Angeles, Mazon is dedicated to preventing and alleviating hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds and in Israel, each year Leket rescues over 700,000 meals and 13 million pounds of produce and perishable goods, for redistribution. These inspiring organisations have a response: don't forget to bensch, but it's even more important to be a mensch.