The University of Richmond Dining Services announced that most chicken and lamb dishes served in Heilman Dining Center are now halal certified, including the popular spider chicken.
Halal, an Arabic word that translates to “permissible” in English, sets guidelines to which Muslims are supposed to adhere in their day-to-day lives. It includes requirements for the preparation of food, which impact the diet of many Muslim students at UR.
According to the Halal Food Authority, meat is considered halal when it is slaughtered by a Muslim by hand, not dead prior to slaughter and completely drained of blood. Prior to the new menu items, these options were not commonly available at UR.
“I know some students have their parents mail them, they freeze the meat or freeze the food and send that over because there’s nothing offered on campus,” Muslim Chaplain Waleed Ilyas said.
Ilyas praised Dining Services for their decision to include more halal food options at UR. Changing the menu to be halal will impact a student’s life in many aspects, Ilyas said.
This shift towards inclusivity has been in progress for some time now. Dining Services has occasionally offered halal menu items at Tyler’s Grill and expanded operational hours and halal menu options during Ramadan, when many Muslim students fast during the day.
Discussions surrounding the introduction of more halal dining options began in fall 2019. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not feasible to implement halal dining options at UR right away, Tyler Betzhold, UR executive chef, said.
Dining Services implemented the expansion of halal options on Jan. 16th, Terry Baker, executive director of dining services, said.
While planning the change, Dining Services focused on including halal options in the long term, Betzhold said.
Spider chicken is produced at the highest volume in the dining hall, Betzhold said. Given the high production of chicken, ensuring that halal options were permanently available from now on was the biggest challenge, Betzhold said. Once halal options were available, there was no going back, Betzhold said.
Many Muslim students on campus reacted positively to these changes, Ilyas said.
“Reactions from students have been great, they’re energetic about this,” he said.
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Dining Services was clear about its goal of expanding inclusivity in dining options on campus.
“We do understand that you’re here for four years or longer, and we want to make it your home and make you comfortable,” Baker said.
Halal food items at the Heilman Dining Center can be found using the new halal dietary icon on dining hall menus.
Executive editor Ananya Chetia contributed to reporting.
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