South Dining Hall begins offering halal meat
Samuel Chan | Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Muslim students on campus have been benefiting from a new student-led initiative that brought halal meat to South Dining Hall in September 2014.
The Notre Dame community includes “a handful” of Muslim students at the undergraduate level and many more at the graduate level, in addition to Muslim faculty and staff, according to Rosemary Max, director of international programs for Notre Dame International (NDI).
However, according to an NDI press release, undergraduate students primarily drove this change, as they were the ones who primarily made use of the dining halls.
Sophomore Hind Ourahou said she “never” made full use of her meal plan, mainly because of the lack of halal options. Meanwhile, Faisal Shariff, also a sophomore, frequently opted for Grab and Go.
Ourahou, one of the key students initiating the move, said this gesture by the University “makes us feel more welcome.”
Prior to serving halal meat, Muslim students’ dining hall meal options were limited to a mix of vegetables, pasta and other non-meat products, or students ate off campus instead. According to the press release, “halal” means “allowed” in Arabic and refers to meat taken from an animal sacrificed by a human “in the name of God, and without the use of machines.” Pork and most carnivorous animals are not allowed under halal rules.
“One of the important reasons why we wanted halal food is to attract Muslim students to apply and attend,” Shariff, who also met with University administrators, said. He said the University shares this opinion.
Max cited University President Fr. John Jenkins, who welcomed international students to campus by saying, “It is part of our Catholic character to invite students to practice their faith on campus.”
Max said the University hopes this move will also encourage “other Muslim graduate students and faculty and staff who may not typically think of the dining halls as an option for them” to eat there as well.
Chris Abayasinghe, director of Notre Dame Food Services (NDFS), said he wants the dining halls to be accessible to all of Notre Dame’s diverse student body.
“When it comes to making our students feel at home, we want to make the experience as inclusive as possible,” he said, pointing out that South Dining Hall offers halal turkey and beef options at the stir-fry station with approximately two requests per meal on an average day.
The halal meat comes from their primary vendor, Gordon Food Service, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Abayasinghe said.
Although NDFS encountered problems sourcing the meat initially, Abayasinghe said, on the day-to-day operational front, staff were familiar with customizing meals and were able to follow the same protocol as they do for students with dietary allergies. Halal meat is individually labelled, handled with separate utensils and contained in designated storage areas.
As for now, halal meat is limited to the stir-fry station at South Dining Hall but “may be expanded to North Dining Hall” if demand supports it, Abayasinghe said.