Students receive more food options
The University’s Dining Services is looking into adding more health-conscious foods to the campus menu — including adding a halal station to the dining halls — in order to comply with students’ requests for healthier cuisine.
A halal tasting and focus group is scheduled for April 1 at the Fresh Foods Company in Moody Towers, and Campus Dietician Sarah Feye said preparations for the event are already underway.
“When we host our halal focus group, we’ll be testing a few recipes and products,” Feye said. “We’re leaning toward offering some traditional Middle Eastern dishes, as well as some college staple recipes that have proven to be popular over the years.”
Halal is food that follows Islamic dietary laws, meaning it cannot contain pork or alcohol. Tandoori Nite is the only restaurant on campus to offer a fully halal menu. Some food trucks, specifically Coreanos and Third Coast Steak Sandwiches, offer halal chicken upon request. No other location on campus offers halal meats.
In November, the Student Government Association passed a resolution in support of adding halal food and healthier options to the campus menu. One of the concerns noted in the final draft of the resolution was that “there is a sizeable population of Muslim students attending the University of Houston, and Muslim students are hesitant to stay on campus due to lack of halal food options.”
Biology freshman Umme Hani Abbas lives on campus and echoed this concern.
“There is a huge Muslim population on campus. There are so many Muslim people, and no one eats anything except halal meats,” Abbas said. “So I go to the Fresh Food Company. I can get cheese pizza and a salad. They have a vegetarian section, but there are not a lot of options there.”
SGA’s November resolution wasn’t the only time students’ dining concerns made their way into the Senate. SGA has made multiple attempts throughout the years to address students’ concerns about adding halal, kosher and overall healthier foods to the campus menu. In 2007, SGA passed a resolution to increase the amount of kosher and halal foods. That same year, Aramark, the University’s food service provider, began selling microwaveable kosher and halal meals at food markets around campus.
Retail Food Service Director Misty Pierce said the items were not popular and were later removed from store shelves.
“Unfortunately, a kosher or halal TV dinner doesn’t exactly fit the needs of the students. We have found that primarily the students that shop in those little markets are looking for the chips and dips and things like that,” Pierce said. “So we’re actually trying to expand into our actual food locations to what they can offer.”
The second phase of the New UC will open in 2015, and with it will come Freshii, an alternative to traditional fast-food restaurants. Freshii is a halal-friendly establishment; however, it does not offer halal meats.
“Freshii will have many vegetarian and vegan meals. These nutrient-packed, plant-based menu items naturally fit into a halal diet,” Feye said.
Feye said she is excited about the new food options coming to campus. According to Feye, the halal tasting and focus group is just one step in a long process to ensure “the best halal food program possible.” Students will have more health-conscious foods to choose from in the coming months.