Halal meal plan met with little participation

Ella Helmuth, Associate Editor [email protected]

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In response to a lack of options at Bruff Dining Hall for Muslim students who follow the standards of Halal, Tulane piloted a dining plan featuring permissible food according to Islamic law.

Halal has specific requirements that are not unlike those of Jewish kosher foods but are unique to the practices of the Muslim religion. Abi Mbaye, a current sophomore and practicing Muslim, described the way Halal foods must be prepared to conform to the laws of the religion.

“The meat that we eat has to be prayed on and blessed by a fellow Muslim, sacrificed in the name of Allah and the animal must be treated with kindness and compassion while alive,” Mbaye said. “They must feel as little pain as possible when they are being sacrificed and it must be clean, healthy meat.”

Sodexo, the provider of Tulane’s food services, did not previously have a meal plan option for Muslim students. Those students, however, were still required to buy the mandated Tulane meal plan, meaning that many students were forced to spend thousands of dollars per semester on food they could not eat.

This year, Director of Dining and Auxiliary Services Lisa Norris instituted a new plan to give Muslim students at Tulane the option of eating in the dining hall as everyone else does.

“The pilot program involved 10 students who wanted to observe Halal dietary laws,” Norris said. “We asked these 10 students to help us choose the meats they would like to see prepared. The meals were prepared in the area of our kitchen where our special dietary meals are prepared so that we could ensure that no cross contamination occurred during preparation.”

The meat for Halal meals is very expensive, and Norris expressed concern about the ability of Sodexo to continue the program with such low participation.

“The first week, we had 10 meals consumed for the entire week,” Norris said. “The second week, no one took advantage of the Halal offerings. The third week, four meals were consumed for the week, and this last week no meals have been consumed.”

Mbaye feels that Tulane worked to provide an adequate program for students who require Halal meals and is concerned that low involvement may hinder students’ future attempts to overcome cultural barriers.

“If [the students who requested the new plan] make a big deal about it since it is a need for them, but they don’t use it when the university gives it to them, then it becomes a waste of money, resources and labor,” Mbaye said. “Tulane is evolving because this was a huge step for them, they followed through. The Muslim students did not… it was a bad precedent on our part.”

Freshman Jeresun Atkin is happy with the university’s attempt at cultural inclusion.

“Tulane isn’t exceptionally racially or culturally diverse,” Atkin said. “Including a new meal plan that supports an important religion in our nation will improve our multiculturalism and perhaps generate an open minded attitude.”