Students discuss limitations of MSU’s dining hall options

Susan S. Johnson

“Some students have to commute far just to follow their diet since it’s not available in their nearby hall by default,” he said. “My friend, who is very strict in their diet, had to commute over to a completely different neighborhood and dining hall, just so they can have Halal chicken.” 

Al-Ejel addressed the use of alcohol in dining hall food. Although the dining halls cook the alcohol out, he said this still does not respect religious points of view.

“It’s not about being drunk, but about the flavors and idea of the presence of alcohol,” Al-Ejal said. “As Muslims, we believe that we should refrain from anything that resembles or tastes like alcohol, in order to not get closer to sin. So, when we’re just told that it’s cooked out instead of just lowering the use of alcohol in foods, I feel that MSU is not actively working to respect diets and religious restrictions.”

In regards to religious restrictions, Kelsey Patterson, a registered dietitian at Michigan State University Residential and Hospitality Services, said halal proteins are offered for every dinner in each neighborhood. 

“Halal proteins are tracked in the menu item name. Kosher food options are available in Brody and the Gallery Sunday-Thursday. We offer additional accommodations for certain times of the year like Lent, Passover, and Ramadan.”

“While it’s absolutely our goal to provide equitable access to dining options to all of our guests, including ones with dietary restrictions, we understand that it may not always be possible,” she said. “This is why we have a full-time Registered Dietitian on staff to work one-on-one with students that have dietary restrictions to come up with an individualized plan based off of needs.”

Patterson spoke about the allergen-conscious locations inside dining halls.

“All dining halls, except for Thrive, have allergen-conscious locations,” Patterson said. “These locations include common substitutions such as gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives and individually wrapped condiments. Menu signage is available in each dining hall outside of the venue that tracks the Big 8 allergens, in addition to alcohol, beef, coconut and pork. We also denote if an item is vegan or vegetarian with a logo.”

Psychology sophomore Vian Abdulqader, however, believes the dining halls don’t fully accommodate to different people.

“It’s very repetitive and it’s not at all inclusive of a lot of dietary restrictions. If they do have something, it’s also very rare and it’s not that good,” Abdulqader said. “Sometimes I’m excited because there’s a lot of halal food, right? But then it’s there one day a week for like one meal. Or one day every three days for one meal and it’s not very good. It just sucks really having to go out of my way just to get dinner.”

With limited options, Abdulqader finds herself settling on what she eats.

“If I can’t possibly go out of my way, I’m just too busy with school or work, I end up getting soup and salad or cheese pizza and after a while, that obviously gets very boring,” Abdulqader said. “I go to Sparty’s a lot because I know they’ll have something but it’s not very nutritional. Usually I just end up eating mozzarella sticks. Which, you know, feed my hunger in the moment but it’s nothing sustainable.”

When asked how MSU could improve on the food that they serve while keeping in mind kosher, halal, and no-pork diets, Al-Ejel said that there must be a complete end to including alcohol in most foods, and kosher/halal options should be offered in all dining halls.

Abdulqader believes that MSU has all the resources to make positive change in regards to their dining options.  

“I just think that for how big and diverse MSU is and how inclusivity is such a big, important factor, and I know that’s why a lot of students pick MSU, I think they have a lot of room to improve,” Abdulqader said. “I also do think they do have the resources to improve on. I just don’t know why they haven’t. I know I’m not the only one that’s complained about it before.”

“It’s just really frustrating, especially because MSU is known for having good food,” she said.

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