Seattle’s Tsue Chong Co. is producing 2 million fortune cookies with special messaging in an effort to raise awareness of the 2010 Census.
“You will find fame and fortune,” reads one cookie’s fortune. The other side says, “Put down your chopsticks and get involved in Census 2010!”
The first batch of Census fortune cookies was made at the Seattle-based Tsue Chong fortune cookie company on Feb. 17 and will be distributed to restaurants and grocery stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The 2010 Census questionnaire will be mailed in mid-March and Census Day will be held on April 1. The questionnaire is available in six different languages including simplified Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese with language-assistance guides in 59 languages.
“We just want to spread the message that the Census is important,” said Ralph Lee, Seattle Regional Census Center director. “It determines our congressional representation and funding; over $400 billion is allocated each year based on Census.”
The data is also used to determine locations for retail stores, schools, hospitals, new housing developments and other community facilities. The Census is safe, says Lee, who affirms that information will not be shared with other federal or law enforcement agencies, and with only 10 questions, filling out the 2010 Census is easy.
“It’s important, it’s safe and it’s easy,” said Lee. “And certainly now, with the unveiling of our 2 million fortune cookies, it now tastes good!”
The U.S. Census Bureau decided to partner with Tsue Chong in an effort to reach Asian America, a hard-to-count population, explained media specialist Cecilia Sorci of the U.S. Census Bureau in Bothell.
Tsue Chong manager Timothy Louie, who is also the great-grandson of Tsue Chong’s founder, led a visitor’s tour of the factory on Feb. 17. It started with a ride on the freight elevator to the third floor, where the fortune cookies are made. Once the elevator doors opened, a rich vanilla scent filled the room. “It smells good,” exclaimed a visitor.
“The cookies are made from my grandma’s original recipe,” Louie said. “Wheat flour, sugar, vanilla – you can probably smell that. The liquids are water, fresh eggs — Grandma insisted fresh eggs cracked from the shell, and she blended a coconut shortening to give our cookies a special unique taste.”
Louie explained there are two types of machines. One is an older style and the other is a high-speed machine that produces 8,000 fortune cookies in an hour. Cookie batter is dropped onto a griddle and baked for a couple minutes. Then the machine inserts a fortune paper into each pliable cookie wafer and then the cookie is folded in half and quartered to create its classic shape.
David Choy, a former U.S. Census employee and restaurant owner, knew the owners of Tsue Chong through the restaurant business. He approached the owners of Tsue Chong with the idea of inserting Census messaging in their fortune cookies and they gladly agreed.
Tsue Chong is now one of 170,000 partners with the U.S. Census. These partnership efforts help save extra costs. For every person who does not mail in their questionnaire, it costs $65 to track them down in person. And every person who isn’t counted equals the loss of $1,400 in federal money per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We rely on community partners because they are the community leaders, friends and neighbors— perhaps someone you see regularly,” said Sorci. “They reinforce the message and they are trusted.”
“It pleases me and gives me a great thrill to partner with the Census for such an important effort,” said Tsue Chong co-owner Bessie Fan. “I’m glad we’re doing it. We are proud of it and we are very, very honored.”
For more information, please visit: www.2010.census.gov.