Starting Monday, Kings Court English House will serve a halal meat option with every lunch and dinner as well as a traditional ethnic meal at the expo station once a week.
“Halal” denotes food that is acceptable under Islamic law.
Students in the Muslim Student Association have been trying for many years to bring a halal dining program to Penn, which was — until this week — the only Ivy League school that did not have any halal meal options. However, plans continuously failed due to lack of support from MSA, student leaders and administrators said. The opportunity finally arose last semester when the Dining Advisory Board committee asked MSA to present a feasible plan.
“Over the years we have had students from the Muslim [Student] Association approach us about adding Halal food products, but with anything we needed to make sure that there was a base of people that would participate,” Director of Business Services Pamela Lampitt said. “We had to wait for student momentum, so that it is something that is appreciated and enjoyed.”
In the fall, MSA provided the advisory board with a list of around 60 students who came forward and requested a halal dining option.
Lampitt stressed that this step was not the end of the road for halal dining at Penn.
“This is a pilot. Many students in the MSA are eager for us to offer some retail items, and we are looking for some halal-certified items for the Gourmet Grocer,” Lampitt said. “We hope to also expand this into other dining facilities, but we need to crawl before we can walk.”
Chef Manager of the Kings Court English HousePatterson Watkins has worked especially hard in conjunction with MSA to bring a halal option to every lunch and dinner.
“The key difficulty was finding a way to get high quality halal meat,” she said. “I wasn’t going to bring a beat-up cow from the Midwest to serve my students. I eventually found a farm in New York called Halal Pastures. They supply us with happy cows, happy chickens, happy goats and even happy lambs.”
The halal dining program ceremonially began on Friday afternoon when students met in Kings Court English House for a special meal crafted by Chef Watkins, which included chicken with Zatar, a mixture of herbs and spices Watkins promised would “knock your socks off.”
For many Muslim students, the halal dining program does more than just offer food options consistent with their dietary restrictions. It helps create a feeling of acceptance.
“We are celebrating the love today,” Wharton and College freshman Zuhaib Badami said. He was one of the students who worked closely with Penn Dining last semester to show that a halal program was feasible.
“This is a step forward for all minority groups at Penn, a step forward for inclusion,” he said. “Especially with so much Islamophobia today, this is a real sign of love.”
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