Students desire more religious food accommodations throughout campus

Jaycee Kalama, News Contributor

Correction: The updated version of this article has been corrected to attribute a quote to Abby Cohen.

Oregon State is a university that strongly emphasizes diversity. The dining halls on campus should reflect OSU’s efforts to becoming inclusive. The large array of religion represented on campus requires a variety of food accommodations for those who follow a strict religious diet. 

OSU has three main dining halls as well as dining services in the Memorial Union, Cascadia Market and the various cafes scattered around campus. First year students are required to live on campus their freshman year, meaning that they are limited to eating on campus. For those who follow a specific diet, it is important that the university dining services meets, and even exceeds their needs. 

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Kerry Paterson, the director of residential dining and catering at OSU said, “We offer a range of foods that meet a number the of dietary needs of our guest. Some menu items are featured daily and others during special times of year or holiday periods to help accommodate the needs of our guests and residents.”

One example of a religious diet is Halal. Halal refers to what is a permissible or lawful food in traditional Muslim law. For example, those practicing Halal cannot eat pork, bacon, ham or anything from pigs. Instead, they eat Halal beef and chicken. These meats are made Halal by the way the animal is slaughtered, in that the fatal cut must be made at the neck, and the blood allowed to drain completely from the animal.

Khawater Hussein, an Muslim fourth year mechanical engineering student, said, “It is easier on the animal when its eyes are closed at that time so it’s not afraid. The whole point is that we are being humane and respectful to the animal while also choosing the healthier option.” 

Hussein appreciates that Arnold and West Dining Hall provides Halal beef, chicken and lamb, but wishes there were more options.

“You have to respect a person’s health and choices they make. If the school wants to show students that they value our presence, they need to give us options, whether that be gluten free, vegan, Halal or Kosher, it needs to be available and accessible,” Hussein said. 

Hussein would like to see each of the vendors at the dining halls offering at least one non-veggie halal option. She said that having halal meat options makes her feel like her beliefs are being respected and her freedom of religion is being honored, which contributes to feeling like she belongs on this campus.

Paterson said the dining halls label Halal foods on a daily basis due to a large number of students following that diet. They also highlight various other faith based foods throughout the year as demand increases. For example, Lent, various celebrations that occur over winter break and Ramadan increase demand for religious food accommodations. 

However, some students feel that the university could be providing more options. 

Nafiz Azam, a fourth year business major added, “We give a lot of money to other businesses because we have to dine out to try and find better options outside of campus. I feel that if they had a restaurant that had consistent Halal options, we would definitely go there. The school is missing out on an opportunity by not accommodating our needs as well as they could be.”

Azam feels that the dining halls should implement more halal proteins into the menus so those who follow Halal don’t have to constantly rely on tofu and fish. He also suggested better advertising for halal options in dining halls as a lot of students may not know what options exist for them.

Judaism is another religion following a specific diet. Kosher foods conform to the Jewish dietary regulations of kashrut or Jewish law. Jews are prohibited from consuming animals with hooves, shellfish and also eating meat and dairy together. 

Thousands of years ago, it was common for many hooved animals like pigs to have ringworm which could hurt the person consuming the meat. Shellfish were considered to be bottom feeders and therefore unsanitary to eat. While these sort of health risks are rare now, many Jews still practice these laws for the sake of tradition more than anything else.

Abby Cohen is a Jewish first year music major who does not actively following kosher laws, but practices a kosher diet. From this experience, Cohen said, “Personally, I believe that OSU does not represent Kosher dietary restrictions in their dining halls. It is a very common misconception that Halal and Kosher are the same, however, they are actually very different.”

One of the biggest differences between these two laws is that unlike the Halal laws, Kosher laws do not allow the consumption of meat and dairy together. 

“I believe that the dining halls could improve on their accommodations toward people who follow the kosher laws, such as providing purely meat or dairy meals,” Cohen said. “I also understand how complex that procedure can be. Overall I think the dining halls do a good job including people with many dietary restrictions.”

There are a very large number of students who live at OSU and a limited number of shared kitchens. Paterson explained that students with other faith-based dietary needs are encouraged to contact the on-staff registered dietitian, Tara Sanders, who will work one on one with that student to see how Dining Services can improve. As Patterson puts it, all students have a right to access well balanced foods that meet their dietary needs.