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Chaim Bruk approached the local Albertson’s supermarket, suggesting that stocking frozen chicken and some other kosher items might be a good idea, and the store eventually installed a kosher freezer with a variety of products. The local Safeway also began to sell some staples.
The Bruks also began to place community food orders with The Kosher Spot, a company out of Minnesota, which makes deliveries to Montana every few months to supply 15 to 20 families in the area who take part in the program.
“You should see us on Saturday nights after Shabbos,” said Rabbi Bruk. “It looks like a shady operation. A bunch of cars pull up next to a semi parked at the truck stop outside Bozeman and transfer a pallet’s worth of boxes into our cars, then drive away. But it’s really only brisket and gefilte fish.”
“We just added a stop at Missoula; the rabbi there has to meet the truck at around 2 a.m. I wonder what people think he’s doing.”
But it was the launch of the Va’ad Hakashrus certification agency in 2010 that has had the greatest impact on the community.
“Up until 2010, food companies in Montana interested in getting into the kosher food business would have to use mostly East Coast-based certification agencies to supervise their operations, which added to the costs exponentially. Having someone local who can provide a personal touch was important to a lot of business owners.”
Bruk started his venture with one client, and now has six or seven companies who rely on his advice. These range from Wheat Montana, a family-run wheat farm and mill that manufactures flours and baked products, to Tipu’s Chai, an enterprise established by the owner of a local Indian restaurant which now sells its tea blends to Whole Foods and other stores. Another client, Blue Marble Biomaterials, manufactures chemicals that are used for food manufacturing by other companies.
To receive Bruk’s stamp of approval, the manufacturer’s chain of production has to be inspected from field to product to determine that nothing has come into contact with the ingredients or the machinery that would compromise their kosher status. That means riding the threshers in the wheat fields when necessary, among other things.