UC Riverside’s Muslim population has recently raised questions about the limited halal options on campus. First raised as an issue during an ASUCR meeting by CHASS Senator Mariam Alkhalili and third-year undergraduate Salma Mahmoud, halal foods have been pushed for to provide more inclusive dining options for students.
Halal literally means “permitted” or “lawful” in Arabic. Halal foods pertain to the dietary restrictions that Muslims must follow, such as the prohibition on consuming pork and animals that were not slaughtered properly according to traditional religious law according to the Quran.
Dining and Residential services currently offers halal chicken at the Aberdeen and Inverness and Lothian residential restaurants as well as at The Barn upon request. The Market at Glen Mor also serves halal chicken and, as of October 26, La Fiamma now offers halal chicken upon request.
However, third-party vendors (companies contracted by UCR to provide services not already provided by the university) are not required to provide halal options, unlike university-owned establishments, according to Alkhalili. These vendors make up most of the restaurants in the HUB. Alkhalili stated that if halal meats were provided, it would be strongly encouraged to source from that meat, saying, “for third-party vendors, they would not make sure that all of their meat is halal, but Dining said they made a strong recommendation in the lease that if halal meat was provided to them, they would be encouraged to use it.”
Alkhalili hopes to make the inclusion of halal meats, especially to on-campus vendors, part of UCR policy. “Any time we’re going to have third-party vendors, regardless of whether they are a corporate chain, when they come on to campus, they have to understand who the population is they are serving to. In the population we have students that require halal foods and that is why I want to make sure it is policy that all vendors will have to be able to provide halal options,” Alkhalili said.
During the first ASUCR State of the Association meeting, Mahmoud protested Panda Express’ alleged use of lard to cook their food. After further investigation, Alkhalili discovered that Panda Express is using the same oil to cook all of their food which allows for cross contamination. “It’s really unfair for a corporation like Panda Express, who’s making millions everyday, to not invest in more wholesome products,” speaking of the company’s lack of consideration.
Panda Express did not respond to a request for comment.
In an interview, David Henry, executive director of dining, hospitality and retail services, listed the halal options UCR already has and discussed future plans on expanding UCR’s halal options. “We are currently in final negotiations with Mary’s Chicken, which offers free-range, organic and pastured raised chicken for most, if not all of our chicken purchases on campus,” said Henry. Henry also explained that UCR will also attempt to get their products halal certified, which, according to the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, includes testing for pork and alcohol.
Mary’s Chicken were unable to comment.
This story is developing.