Changes to the Faculty Student Association’s halal offerings this semester have left some students struggling to find adequate food on campus.
Following the recontracting of the Jasmine food court this fall, the court no longer has the proper facilities to prepare halal meals. Instead, it relies on sealed, prepackaged “Halal NY” sandwiches from the Union Commons.
This leaves the Union Commons as the only place on campus that prepares and offers halal food at a station that closes at 10 p.m. on weekdays and does not operate on weekends.
This limited availability has become problematic for students such as freshman Israa Hussein, who is frustrated that the Union has a relatively small selection and “closes early, earlier than other food places.”
“I generally have late class and I can’t come here until after I finish,” Hussein said. “Sometimes I just have to buy my food early, leave it in the fridge and eat it later.”
“It’s kind of annoying, it stresses me out and it’s actually really important,” she continued.
The Halal NY station in the Union produces, stores and serves foods under the Quran’s prescribed dietary practices. For example, pork is forbidden and the production of meat must follow certain Islamic regulations.
The station currently provides halal sandwiches to Tabler Café, Roth Café, the Student Activities Center, the Administration cart, the Life Sciences cart, the Union Deli and Jasmine, according to FSA Campus Dining Services Director of Operations Rob Reinhard.
Additionally, according to statement provided by FSA Director of Marketing and Communications Angela Agnello, the FSA “now requires that food served at Jasmine and advertised as ‘halal’ meets the minimum standards provided by the University’s Islamic Chaplain, Sanaa Nadim.”
“These standards include halal food being stored, prepared and served in a separate kitchen area so as to avoid the potential for cross-contamination with food that may be considered haram [anything that is forbidden by Islamic law].”
Jasmine’s kitchen is now shared by four Asian specialty food providers and according to the statement, “does not have space for a separate preparation area of Halal foods.”
Hussein, who is accustomed to Egypt’s widespread halal practices, currently has to combine food sources if she wants variety with protein from the halal station, which is primarily limited to chicken meals.
“Where I come from, everything is halal basically, because it’s an Islamic country. I’m from Egypt and I lived in Middle East for some time too,” Hussein said. “The food repeats every week.”
“When I came here it was different; I’m stressing out keeping an eye on it and I don’t want to stress out about not having food on campus.”
According to the FSA statement, “there has also been feedback about the variety of Halal meals, including requests for menu items from cuisines of the Middle East and Southern Asia, as well as for American comfort foods.
“Campus Dining recently met with the Muslim Student Association and Chaplain Nadim to review the expanded ‘Halal NY’ menu at Union Commons, which now provides a greater variety of requested cuisines, including different daily menu items for lunch and dinner.”
Apparently the Union’s halal kitchen will this year offer a “pilot program” to distribute hot meals to other dining facilities on campus. Additionally, the statement said that visiting guests chefs from Halal NY are being considered by the FSA.
Reinhard was unable to comment on Jasmine’s previous halal program because the “previous contractor for Jasmine did not provide food through Halal NY or the supervision of the University’s Islamic chaplain, Sanaa Nadim,” but recommended that students with specific halal meal requirements contact Nadim.