Student introduces Halal foods to University Park campus

| 25/01/2008 | Reply

University Park, Pa. — Starting this month, Muslim Penn State students can dine on Halal certified food weekdays on the University Park campus.

Similar
to kosher foods, Halal foods have restrictions regarding proper
preparation, cooking and serving. Assisted by graduate student Muhammad
Atiyat and other representatives of the Muslim Students Association
(MSA), Penn State’s Campus Food Services will offer Halal sanctioned
foods in Warnock Commons starting Jan. 27.

“It
has been a group effort,” said Lisa Wandel, director of Food Services.
“Muhammad has worked with us and we are excited to see how it works.”

Atiyat
said that everyone from Food Services has worked very hard to put the
program together, and he is pleased with the progress. As an
undergraduate, he was involved in a similar program at Stony Brook
University in New York. When he came to Penn State, he noticed there
was only one restaurant in the area that sold Halal foods. He felt
inspired to make a change.

“It’s
an additional incentive for Muslim students to attend Penn State,” he
said. “This highlights the importance of Halal foods for the students.”

The
program will begin with a trial period during spring 2008. The World
Beat station at BlueSpoon Deli will serve Halal dinners Sunday through
Thursday. The World Beat is an a la carte eatery that specializes in
international foods. Wandel said adding Halal dinners will be a welcome
change for BlueSpoon.

“At
night we are repeating the same meals from lunch,” she said. “With the
Halal dinners, we can have Mediterranean menus at night — something
different.”

Although
restrictions in serving Halal foods are not as strict as kosher, a few
challenges remain for Food Services. Wandel said Halal-approved
products are not labeled like kosher foods are. This means Food
Services must communicate with vendors to make sure they sell Halal
certified food and follow approved procedures.

Meats
that are Halal certified follow Islamic law regarding how livestock is
slaughtered. In any Halal food, no pork and no items with alcoholic
ingredients are allowed.

Atiyat
said promoting diversity at Penn State is important for everyone. By
offering these dining options, students can be exposed to a culture
that they might not understand or know much about.

University
employees have benefited from the change as well. “It’s a great
learning experience,” said Curt Weisner, assistant manager of Warnock
Commons. “We haven’t even made the Halal food yet and our cooks have
learned a lot already.”

Not
only does the program offer a change on the menu, but it also
introduces a new way of cooking to those who work in the kitchen.

“This
program benefits Penn State because it’s education,” Wandel said. “It
educates other students that are not familiar with these lifestyles.”

Both
Wandel and Weisner said working with Atiyat has been excellent and has
done wonders for the program’s progress, and Atiyat said it would have
not been possible without the help of Food Services — a true sign of
teamwork, with results to show for it.



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