Prior to this semester, only one out of the eight dining halls at UConn offered halal food: Towers, which is quite a trek, especially if you are hungry or in a rush. Halal, which is Arabic for “permissible,” refers to the manner in which meat must be prepared for those of the Islamic religion. For the Muslim students on campus that eat halal food, more accessible offerings have been a long time coming. Thanks to the Muslim Students Assocation (MSA) and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), halal food availability and variety will expand throughout UConn’s dining services, including halal food at South Dining Hall and its Grab and Go.
“The majority of the Muslim community here at UConn eats halal food,” Zaim Rana, an eighth-semester biology major, said. He serves as president of MSA. “With over one thousand Muslims on campus, I thought it was time UConn paid more attention to such a large part of their student body. Halal food had to be more accessible with a wider variety of options.”
Rana mentioned the struggles that Muslim students deal with concerning the lack of halal food on campus.
“With one dining hall only offering halal on the weekdays, ending at 7:15, people end up either barely eating, eating only unhealthy carbs, or spending money ordering food,” Rana said.
To gain support for the expansion of halal food on campus, MSA sent out a petition that garnered a thousand signatures in less than a month. After seeing that the expansion would be in the best interest of the student body, MSA reached out to USG to pass a statement of position concerning the initiative.
“As the project lead on the Food Insecurity Task Force, my goals naturally aligned with MSA, and I jumped at the opportunity to work together for such an important cause,” Ethan Werstler, a fourth-semester political science and communications major, said. The Food Insecurity Task Force, “which pursues avenues of advocacy related to food insecurity,” according to Werstler, is part of USG’s Student Services Committee. “Every student on this campus, regardless of their faith, deserves adequate access to food.”
The statement of position, which passed through USG Senate, encouraged administration and Dining Services to work on expanding halal food on campus. After meeting with Dennis Pierce, the head of UConn Dining Services, Rana and MSA collaborated on a plan for the expansion. Upcoming changes, which will go into effect in the coming weeks, include halal food at South Dining Hall and its Grab and Go, cheeseburgers every Friday and more quantity and variety of halal wraps and sandwiches at the cafes and at the Student Union.
“The long-term plan is to have halal food at every dining hall on campus and have halal food at late-night,” Rana said of the future of more halal food availability. “Since UConn has such a large Muslim demographic, the complete overarching goal is to make UConn a place where Muslims apply to go to school because they know [they will feel] welcomed, accepted and at home.”
With the successful changes, Rana hopes that UConn’s Muslim community can work towards feeling more comfortable with their religious obligations and can take advantage of the new options.
“[The expansion] creates an environment of accepting people for who they are and letting them be who they want to be,” Rana said. “It was a shame that just a year ago, many Muslim[s] were abandoning that aspect of their faith just because they felt their needs weren’t being recognized by UConn and accommodated for.”
Hollie Lao is a staff writer and the social media manager for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.