University of Calgary students and staff looking for halal meat won’t find many options on campus.
For meat to be considered halal, it must be processed under certain condition in accordance with Islamic law. Of the dozens of food vendors on campus, Pita On The Run is the only one which serves certified halal meat.
The lack of halal options on campus is a problem that resonates with Students’ Union arts representative Zainab Malik.
“There is such a large population of Muslims on campus. If they’re like me, they’re literally here all day, every day,” Malik said. “Eating like a rabbit won’t really cut it. You need something to keep you going.”
For students living in residence with a meal plan, the university does not offer any halal meat options. Meal plan and ‘food fund’ money can be spent at a number of vendors around campus, including the dining centre, though none serve halal meat.
This may come as a surprise to first-year students with halal dietary restrictions living in Rundle or Kananaskis hall. Both residences require students to purchase meal plans ranging in price from $2,080 to $4,640 every year. Meal plans are also mandatory for upper-year students in Yamnuska hall and those taking part in the Scholars’ Advantage program in Cascade hall.
“It’s tough. I’ve talked to some people who simply can’t fulfil [the halal] obligation. They basically take a leave from that,” said student senate representative Ilyas Gora. “Which sucks, having to give up your faith for something like that.”
Malik is currently working with Jan Morel, regional director for the food service provider Chartwells, to bring halal options to campus.
“We talked about the cafeteria in the Energy Environment Experiential Learning building, the On The Go, that could possibly be a halal shop,” Malik said. “Right now, we’re just working on getting a halal supplier and then just making sure that the price is right. We don’t want to make students pay excessively just for halal meat.”
Malik hopes to set up a daily halal special in the EEEL building. If there is enough demand, the cafeteria will move forward with more dishes.
The U of C is not the only post-secondary school in Calgary with few halal meat options. There are no certified halal vendors at SAIT or Mount Royal University.
Associate vice-president business and retail services at MRU Mike Reed said halal meat was brought up in recent meetings regarding future food service.
“There is a growing market for halal food,” Reed said. “And that’s an area where Mount Royal doesn’t have a presence right now.”
Halal describes something that is permissible in the Islamic faith, while things that are not permissible are haram. Halal and haram apply to many aspects of Muslim life.