Campus

Students Struggle to Find On-Campus Halal, Kosher Options

McKeever Spruck | The PHOENIXSimpson Dining Hall is the only dining hall on Loyola's campus that serves halal meat, the only type of meat allowed for practicing Muslims.

First-year psychology major Shoshanah Altman-Shafer follows a Kosher diet, which restricts certain kinds of foods and follows Jewish customs of preparation. She said Loyola’s dining hall staff informed her that accommodations could be made to provide Kosher food for her, but Altman-Shafer later found there wasn’t any Kosher food there.

“It would have been fine if I had been … able to plan for not having Kosher food provided for me,” said the 19-year-old. “I could have taken that into account and figured out how I was going to eat during the semester, but because I was somewhat blindsided with that, I didn’t know what I should do.”

Other students face similar problems at Lake Shore Campus (LSC) dining halls, which some students contend don’t provide enough accommodations to those with religious dietary needs.

Ayesha Ahmed, a first-year bioinformatics major, practices Islam and follows the religion’s dietary rules.

She said she has trouble eating properly because the dining halls don’t regularly offer halal meat, which is meat specially prepared in accordance with Islamic culture. Among Loyola’s three LSC dining halls — de Nobili Dining Hall, Damen Dining Hall and Simpson Dining Hall — Simpson is the only one that offers halal meat, according to the 18-year-old.

“I had to get permission to get off the meal plan because I couldn’t focus on school,” said Ahmed. “I wasn’t eating properly because what I can eat [in the dining halls] was mostly vegan or vegetarian. I wasn’t getting proper nutrition [and] that affected my focus in school and energy levels were definitely down.”

First-and second-year students are required to live on campus and have a meal plan. Ahmed lives in Campion Hall and must go across campus to get halal meat from Simpson.

Halal and Kosher diets are specific to Islam and Judaism, respectively. The Islamic faith does not allow the consumption of pork, but it does allow the consumption of halal meat. Animals used for halal meat are treated humanely before being slaughtered and drained of blood.

Kosher diets also follow guidelines that include the humane slaughter of animals, and kosher food goes through extensive processes to be certified. Kosher laws do not allow milk and meat products to be combined, and utensils used for meals aren’t permitted to make contact with non-Kosher food.

Loyola’s Muslim population is currently around 7 percent, according to Loyola’s Muslim chaplain, Omer Mozaffar. Loyola’s Jewish population is 2 percent, according to Hillel International.

Ernest Watkins III, the resident district manager of Aramark, Loyola’s food service provider, explained that the food directors and chefs in the dining halls will meet with students and discuss dietary arrangements on a case-by-case basis.

Ahmed said it’s more expensive to buy halal meat off campus because of the preparation and certification process the food requires. But Watkins said providing halal meat does not cost Aramark extra.

Dining hall staff does not put out a lot of halal meat when it’s served because they don’t want to waste food or let the meat sit out all day, according to Loyola Director of Dining Hall Operations Julie Mosier.

Watkins said Kosher food isn’t available at the dining halls because the university doesn’t have a Kosher kitchen to prepare the food.

The university is currently making plans to incorporate more Kosher and halal food in dining halls, according to Watkins. Watkins said the plans include making halal options available in Simpson more frequently — possibly daily. Watkins said he hopes to have those plans initiated this semester.

Watkins said Aramark is looking to provide Kosher options for students in the future. He said Aramark is considering is adding a meal plan option for students who eat Kosher.

Mosier said Aramark is open to and encourages student feedback, whether dietary restrictions involve a student’s faith or food allergies, which the cafeterias already try to accommodate with gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan options.

“We want that communication from the students,” said Mosier. “Our doors are open any time. If there’s any need, … communicate it with us, and we will absolutely look into it immediately, and we can make a plan.”

Watkins said that he is open to exploring options to increase the availability of halal and Kosher food.

“There’s definitely something we can do and want to do because we do know there’s a need for it,” said Watkins.

Students can send their concerns to Julie Mosier at her email, mosier-julie@aramark.com. Ernest Watkins can be reached at watkins-ernest1@aramark.com.

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