OVT Set to Offer Kosher and Halal Options

UCSD will soon become the first UC campus to have a kosher and halal dining hall. Over a year ago, the Muslim Student Association and the Union of Jewish Students initiated a joint effort to bring new menu options to the Oceanview Terrace dining hall in the fall of 2016.

Eleanor Roosevelt College junior and member of the MSA Hibah Khan told the UCSD Guardian that the two student organizations decided to work together because they were more likely to achieve their goal through a joint initiative.

“It was recommended that the two clubs combine forces because it would be unusual that we are working together,” Khan said. “We represent a more united effort to achieve one common goal.”

According to Khan, the collaboration came about after the UJS approached the MSA with the idea to renovate OVT. A team of four students representing both clubs is working with university staff on the initiative to renovate the dining hall.

“We have been working with the director of [Housing, Dining and Hospitality], Mark Cunningham, since last year trying to make this happen,” Khan said.

Khan also mentioned that the renovations to OVT could include a prayer space for Muslim and Jewish students.

Zev Hurwitz, executive vice president of the Union of Jewish Students, explained that the idea for a dining hall with kosher and halal menu options came from the results of a universitywide student satisfaction and campus climate survey in 2013.

“The Union of Jewish Students responded en masse to the Strategic Planning Campus Climate Surveys,” Hurwitz told the Guardian. “By saying, ‘Hey, we need more kosher food on campus.’”

According to Hurwitz, the UJS received a call from Vice Chancellor of Student Life Gary Ratcliff asking for input on how to improve on-campus dining options for students who observe dietary guidelines for their faiths. Hurwitz and the UJS began working with Ratcliff’s office and the MSA to mutually advocate for new dining options.

The renovation of OVT will allow religious students of Jewish and Muslim backgrounds to live on campus and use their meal plans toward hot food, rather than packaged meals from the on-campus markets.

Hurwitz described to the Guardian the difficulty he had during his freshman year finding kosher food on campus.

“There were very few things I could find in the dining halls that were kosher,” Hurwitz said. “So I ended up eating a lot of salad during my freshman year.”

Both halal and kosher dietary restrictions involve a specific process in which an animal is slaughtered. Those who observe halal and kosher dietary restrictions also don’t eat pork. 

By the end of Hurwitz’s freshman year, the markets started selling pre-packaged kosher food.

“But that isn’t sufficient for someone’s entire diet,” Hurwitz said, adding that the price of food at the markets is more expensive than at the dining halls.

Hurwitz isn’t the only student to be deterred from living on campus due to the lack of kosher and halal food options.

“I would say that there are a good number of Jewish- and Muslim-observant students on campus who choose not to live on campus simply because they would have to buy into the dining dollars program and don’t have an applicable use for it,” Hurwitz said. 

HDH could not be reached for comment by press time.