Council Supports ASUC Proposal for Kosher, Halal Food

Wendy Lee covers the City Council. E-mail her at [email protected].

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The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution in support of a proposed housing and dining program that will meet the religious dietary needs of Jewish and Muslim UC Berkeley students.

The resolution supported a bill unanimously passed by the ASUC Senate in early September calling for changes to residence hall meal plans.

The senate bill, authored by Goatmilk Senator Adnan Iqbal, stated the "dietary needs of (Muslim and Jewish) students have been overlooked by (the university)" and added there are "ample amount of affordable suppliers" who will provide UC Berkeley's Department of Housing and Dining Services with Halal and kosher meat.

Iqbal said he has contacted six Halal and kosher distributors who are willing to work with the university to provide permitted foods for Muslim and Jewish students.

There are approximately 4,000 Jewish students and 500 Muslim students on campus, according to the bill.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who proposed the resolution, said it "may just be two steps in the right direction."

Worthington said the university will likely adopt the new program.

"They are moving in a direction of greater sensitivity towards different people, cultures and lifestyles," he said.

Housing and Dining Services officials will meet with ASUC senators Friday to discuss the bill, Iqbal said.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Jimmy Bryant, one of the bill's sponsors, said it is important for the university to show they are supporting religious practices.

"I don't think it's fair that students come here and aren't given necessary diets," Bryant said.

Iqbal said universities across the nation are implementing similar programs.

UC Berkeley freshman Zohair Hussain, a Muslim student, said at least once a week his dining commons serves a pork or ham main dish-which is forbidden in Islamic law-forcing him and other Muslim students to eat side dishes instead.

"That's kind of tough because you go hungry," Hussain said. "You eat salads to fill."

But the university would have to assess the cost and logistics of the program before it can consider implementing the food program, said Housing and Dining Services Director Bob Jacobs.

"It would be an impossibility" for the university to install kosher kitchens in residence halls' dining commons, he said. Although he said the university could be required to have separate cooking utensils for meat and dairy products. Kosher packaged food could also be used, he added.

Jacobs said the housing and dining office tried to work alongside Berkeley Hillel to implement these programs in the past, but the programs were never implemented because of the cost involved.

Among the possibilities for the programs would be to have a separate dining facility for kosher foods, Jacobs said.

Michael Laux, general manager for Unit One Dining Services, said storing Halal meat separate from other meats would be "difficult" for the university because Units 1 and 2 are currently planning to move to a single dining facility.

After the move, however, using Halal meat at university dining commons "is an issue to look at and see," Laux said.

Bryant said university officials should ensure adding a new dietary program at residence halls does not incur any extra cost for students.

The dining program currently serves around 5,500 students.


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