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Monday, August 3, 2020

Opinion

Expanding halal food options on campus is a step forward


UH plans to expand halal dining options over the next five years. This decision will beneficially impact UH’s large Muslim population. | Photo courtesy of UH Muslim Student Association.

 

Rushing from class to class and working on assignments with fast-approaching due dates often causes students to neglect sustenance, leading them to excitedly await the moment when they can finally grab a bite to eat.

The University should provide dining options that accommodate all students, including those with dietary restrictions. UH is a proud, ethnically diverse campus and should have dining options that reflect this cultural variety.

A campus population increase of 2 percent since last fall has also led to a rise in the number of students who need vegan, vegetarian, kosher and halal food options. These students come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, including individuals who practice Islam.

Despite having a large Muslim community, it is difficult for Muslim students to find halal certified food options on campus.

In spring of 2018, auxiliary services announced that UH dining would be “making it a little bit easier for students, faculty and staff who follow a halal diet” to find options on campus, with food trucks and a serving station at Moody Towers dining commons allocated for halal fare.

However, calling the necessity for halal food a diet does it injustice. These are not just dietary restrictions, but serious beliefs for Muslim students.

UH dining plans to further accommodate for these dietary needs in the future, as introduced in their five-year plan released this week. The plan features prospective increases to the variety of food options served on campus, including the opportunity for more halal choices.

The construction of a new dining facility to replace the Moody Towers dining commons will provide more room to incorporate halal eateries and meet demand.

Positive Impact

The inclusion of halal options in future dining plans is a big step toward the idea of a Zabiha-Halal diet as something normal instead of an alienating trait.

Muslim students and faculty will be able to come to campus and feel no different from everyone else. Instead of settling for vegetarian options when all they want is a nice, juicy burger, Muslim individuals will have access to the foods they want with the assurance that it meets their dietary needs.

Investing in a greater variety of halal options is an excellent way for UH to continue fostering its culture of diversity.

President of the Muslim Student Association Waleed Vohra said these ambitious changes will make Muslim students feel more welcome on campus.

“UH should have halal options,” Vohra said.

“Coming to a university is very difficult for students, particularly those who live on campus. Having halal options in the dining hall and on campus is crucial to creating a welcoming environment. I genuinely believe small gestures like this lead to better academic performances and willingness to participate on campus. Students become more invested.”

UH has made significant increases in the availability of halal options since the first halal food station was introduced at Moody Towers dining commons in 2015. Since then, Bullritos started serving halal meat and a variety of halal food trucks have been brought to campus. Tandoori Nite features a menu with all halal options.

“I think more people are comfortable with living on campus,” Vohra said. “Most Muslims at UH come from immigrant families. Immigrant families prefer things they know over things they don’t. Food is one of the main things. Immigrant parents feel more comfortable letting their children live on campus since food they know is going to be served to these kids. It alleviates a large fear.”

Laraib Hashmi is a senior journalism major and can be reached at [email protected]

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