LEXINGTON – To meet the dining needs of Muslim students, a new halal food station will open in Barnard College Hewitt Dining Hall, New York after Thanksgiving break, Columbia Spectator reported on November 15.
“We pay for our dining plans, [so] we [should be able] to eat from school and not from the halal carts or outside sources,” said Yeliz Sezgin, Student Government Association’s Representative for Food and Dining Services of the Food Advisory Board which will create the new halal station.
“Because I knew that it was an issue, [and] because it pertained to me, I was able to address this… [and] to listen to what other [Muslim] students had to say,” he added.
The term ‘halal’ is commonly used for meat, but it also applies to other food products, cosmetics, personal care products, and pharmaceuticals which mustn’t be derived from non-halal sources like pork.
Halal also applies to any other consumed and edible materials which mustn’t be harmful to human health. For example, Islam considers wines, alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, E-cigs, hookah and other unhealthy things to be non-halal.
For something to be considered halal, the animal from which it came from must be well-treated, raised in a humane and healthy way, and slaughtered according to Shari’ah for hygiene reasons.
The announcement of the new station comes amid calls for both Barnard and Columbia to address certain challenges facing Muslim students, including inadequate prayer spaces as well as limited halal offerings on campus.
The only existing halal station across both campuses is at Columbia’s John Jay Dining Hall.
Currently, Barnard requires that all students purchase a meal plan, regardless of their dietary restrictions.
Although Hewitt does offer some halal foods, there is no dedicated area for halal meals, nor any certifications posted—rather, students must specifically ask a staff member for a halal dining option.
Similar to the existing Kosher food section at Hewitt, the new station will provide separate trays, plates, and utensils for students, and food will be prepared with separate cookware to avoid cross-contamination. Halal certifications will also be posted for all of the station’s offerings.
“By even putting in the effort to have a halal section … and being receptive to the Food Advisory Board and student feedback, it just shows that you care about your students … that make up different demographics,” Sezgin hopes.
“[When Barnard can] cater to a diverse student body, it’s not only beneficial for Muslim students but beneficial to the student body as a whole.”