Hawzah News Agency (Minnesota, US) – For the first time in St. Thomas' history, Dining Services plans to offer halal food options for Muslim students, staff, and faculty beginning in fall 2019.
The initiative responds to feedback given to the university through surveys, committees, and comment cards and will provide non-vegetarian food options for Muslims at the university who eat meat that is consistent with the Islamic religious requirements of halal and zabihah.
Sadaf Shier, the associate Muslim Chaplain at St. Thomas, said the move will help Muslim students looking for substantial meals on campus.
"There are Muslim students who work and study," Shier said. “They spend at least 10 to 12 hours out of home straight. It is not possible sometimes to bring food from home. That is a struggle."
According to Mitchell Karstens, the university's Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services, the university hopes to roll out the halal food to Catering Services before incorporating it into resident dining and then ultimately into retail options like T’s and Scooters.
Karstens, who has contributed to moving the initiative forward since being hired by the university seven months ago, said that the move is part of a larger scale operation that hopes to include food items in resident dining that can be eaten by everyone. Right now, the university is specifically focusing on vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and halal food choices.
“We constantly want to engage with students. We want to be able to have conversations with students," Karstens said. "If we are not meeting the mark in any way, we want students to be able to come to us and talk to us and work with us."
Dining services has found a provider in Midwest Food & Meat Distributor to source halal meat – something that was not offered by their regular provider. Additionally, they have started tastings for Muslim students and begun to put together a menu featuring the items.
According to Shier, projects like this one will make St. Thomas a more attractive option for Muslim youth when determining whether or not to apply or enroll at St. Thomas.
"Why do students have to pick between education and faith?" Shier said. "They don't have to pick between one or the other. They can be faithful to whatever faith tradition that they belong to and be students like other students."