VCU dining fails to accomodate student diversity

Illustration by Steck Von.

Orizo Hajigurban

Contributing Writer

VCU takes great pride in the diversity of its student body. But when it comes to food, it does not accommodate that diversity.

A lot of people are familiar with the term halal, but many people don’t know what that term actually means — halal meat encompasses kosher and zabiha. Here’s a little crash course: halal, literally meaning “permissible,” is when the animal is raised and slaughtered in a humane way. In both zabiha and kosher preparation, blood should be completely drained from an animal because of the toxins, germs and bacteria in the blood. The two types of meat are prepared exactly the same, except with zabiha, a prayer is said in Arabic before the animal is killed. And for kosher, the meat must be slaughtered by a ritual slaughterer, according to the laws of the Torah. Typically, Muslims make a personal choice of the type of food they wish to eat; some eat food that is only zabiha, others eat anything that falls under the all-encompassing label.

Many Muslims I know consider zabiha and kosher interchangeable, so they do not limit themselves to eating only zabiha meat. But other Muslims, who only eat zabiha food, are limited when it comes to food options on campus. For example, I have many friends that only eat zabiha food, yet they eat Chick-fil-A in the University Student Commons because the chicken is kosher. The lack of zabiha options on campus causes students to make a decision — either change how they observe their religion or struggle to find food that accommodates it.

Although we may have some zabiha and kosher options nearby, the same incessant menu becomes mundane. Some of the most well-known restaurants on and around campus with kosher and zabiha options are Chick-fil-A and CAVA’s lamb. On the flip side, non-halal options are abundant and don’t cost extra (unlike the lamb at CAVA). The lack of available and affordable variety often forces Muslim students to seek meal options outside of the university’s dining plan.

There are many ways for VCU Dining Services to provide more inclusive dining options on campus; a great starting point would be Shafer Dining Hall. Every year, we get new food options. Maybe instead of the new smoothie bar, Shake Smart, students could benefit more from a Halal Guys — the fast-casual chain based off the well-loved New York food cart. Zabiha and kosher grab-and-go options in the Commons would be another step in the right direction, especially for students who just need a quick bite to eat between classes.

Adding a few more dining options on the meal plan to accommodate for incoming students of different religions and cultures is necessary. As a freshman, starting college with a halal dietary restriction can be nerve-wracking, especially if your university, which prides itself on diversity, does not offer a wide variety of dining options.

Ultimately, everyone’s diet should be accommodated — especially if the group makes up a large part of the student body, as well as the country. It is VCU’s responsibility to support its students’ diverse nutritional needs. Coming into a diverse university, people expect accessible nutritional freedom. With a hefty tuition bill and heavy academic load, finding a source of food that fits a prominent lifestyle should be the least of anyone’s worries.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply