Since 2022, UNC dining halls have been providing halal-certified meals, a significant step towards accommodating the dietary needs of Muslim students. Despite this progress, there remains a level of hesitation among some students regarding the sourcing and preparation of these halal options.
Carolina Dining Services features an online menu, a valuable tool for students with dietary restrictions to plan their meals. Halal foods, as per Islamic law, involve specific methods of slaughtering and preparing meat, while strictly avoiding certain items like alcohol and pork.
However, some students have raised concerns. The labelling of various foods in Chase and Lenoir Dining Halls, such as vegetables, plain noodles, and pork Italian sausages as halal, has led to confusion and wariness. UNC sophomore Mariam Matin expressed her uncertainty about the origin of halal meat used by CDS and the potential for cross-contamination, which is a significant issue for those adhering to halal dietary guidelines.
In response to collaboration with the UNC Muslim Students Association in 2022, CDS now offers halal proteins seven times a week at Chase Dining Hall, marked with an orange H on their menu. These items exclude pork products, including gelatin and cooking alcohols. Despite these efforts, the lack of transparency regarding their meat vendors, especially for chicken and lamb, remains a concern, as some listed partners do not explicitly offer halal products.
The initiative for these changes was largely due to the efforts of UNC alumni Dalal Azzam, who worked with CDS during her senior year. After realizing the impact of limited halal options on Muslim students, some of whom resorted to vegetarian diets or eating off-campus, Azzam collaborated with CDS to educate them about halal requirements and cross-contamination issues.
While some improvements are evident, with more halal options being offered, the ambiguity in labelling still poses a challenge. For example, certain dishes like “seasoned chicken breast” and “cilantro marinated chicken” are marked as halal, but inconsistencies in ingredient descriptions cause confusion.
Acknowledging these issues, UNC Media Relations stated their intent to revise the halal labelling, especially for non-meat items, to align with the halal definition on their website.
For many Muslim students, maintaining a halal diet is not just a dietary choice but a fundamental aspect of their faith and lifestyle. As a result, some, like Matin, have taken initiatives such as founding Halal Heels and organizing pop-up sales with profits going to charity, to bring more halal options to campus and support their community.
In conclusion, while UNC has made strides in offering halal options, continued efforts are needed to address the concerns of Muslim students, ensuring their dietary needs are met with clarity and adherence to halal standards.