In an effort to address the dining needs of Muslim students, a new halal food station will open in Barnard’s Hewitt Dining Hall after Thanksgiving break, Barnard Student Government Association’s Food Advisory Board announced on Friday.
The new station will take the place of Hewitt’s “action station” and will exclusively serve certified halal food. In Islam, halal foods are those that are free from any component that Muslims are prohibited from consuming—such as pork and alcohol—as well as those produced or stored using utensils, equipment, or machinery that have not been cleansed according to Islamic law.
The announcement of the new station comes amid calls for both Barnard and Columbia to address certain challenges facing Muslim students, including inadequate prayer spaces as well as limited halal offerings on campus. The only existing halal station across both campuses is at Columbia’s John Jay Dining Hall.
Specifically, students at Barnard have expressed grievances about the lack of consistency and variety of halal options, in addition to issues of cross-contamination caused by using the same plates and cookware as non-halal food.
The creation of the new halal station was spearheaded by the SGA’s Food Advisory Board and SGA Representative for Food and Dining Services Yeliz Sezgin, BC ’21, in collaboration with the Barnard Dining Services staff.
“When I was a freshman coming into Barnard, I noticed that there isn’t really halal food here,” Sezgin said. “We pay for our dining plans, [so] we [should be able] to eat from school and not from the halal carts or outside sources. Because I knew that it was an issue, [and] because it pertained to me, I was able to address this..[and] to listen to what other [Muslim] students had to say.”
Currently, Barnard requires that all students purchase a meal plan, regardless of their dietary restrictions. Although Hewitt does offer some halal foods, there is no dedicated area for halal meals, nor any certifications posted—rather, students must specifically ask a staff member for a halal dining option.
Similar to the existing Kosher food section at Hewitt, the new station will provide separate trays, plates, and utensils for students, and food will be prepared with separate cookware to avoid cross-contamination. Halal certifications will also be posted for all of the station’s offerings.
Amid current contract negotiations with Barnard’s dining service provider, Aramark, Barnard has encouraged students to make suggestions for Barnard Dining through both a town hall and an email survey that was sent to the campus community.
Sezgin hopes that the station will promote inclusivity in Barnard’s dining services.
“By even putting in the effort to have a halal section … and being receptive to the Food Advisory Board and student feedback, it just shows that you care about your students … that make up different demographics,” she said. “[When Barnard can] cater to a diverse student body, it’s not only beneficial for Muslim students but beneficial to the student body as a whole.”