To better meet the needs of students with dietary restrictions based on their religious beliefs, UCLA has begun offering a supplemental meal plan for kosher and halal-observant students.

The new meal plan is available as an add-on to the standard meal plan for undergraduates who live on campus. It features pre-packaged lunch and dinners that meet kosher and halal requirements, orthodox methods of preparing food for Jews and Muslims, respectively. Meals will be prepared off-campus by local vendors and sold exclusively at the Covel Commons residential restaurant.

Janina Montero, UCLA vice chancellor of student affairs, said the effort to introduce kosher and halal plans was initiated by Jewish and Muslim students.

“Our students approached the administration with a united voice requesting expanded kosher and halal options,” Montero said. “UCLA is a diverse campus, and with that comes an opportunity to improve how we provide service. We are pleased that our residents who eat kosher or halal now have more variety at mealtimes.”  

In a 2015 survey conducted by UCLA Dining Services 200 students identified themselves as observing halal or kosher dietary laws, which restrict what types of meats can be eaten, how foods are prepared and processed, the use of alcohol as an ingredient and which foods can be prepared or consumed in combination.

Charles Wilcots, associate director of dining services administration, said if there is enough interest in the new kosher and halal foods, officials would explore expanding the program to include the entire UCLA community and campus visitors.

“We’re starting with small steps because we want to see how well this works and build from there,” he said.

Students praised the expanded meal expanded program. Fatimah Habib, a second-year English major, said she has struggled to find a convenient source for halal meat since coming to UCLA.

“Now that there is a meal plan that has halal food on it, I can expand my options,” said Habib, an observant Muslim. “Having this makes me feel more included on our campus. I’m really excited for this.”

Fourth-year psychobiology student Jon Sadik was one of a small group of Jewish students who met with dining staff last year to discuss the needs of students who keep kosher. Although he no longer lives on campus, Sadik said he is glad that his fellow students now have more meal options, and satisfied that campus leaders took students’ concerns and suggestions to heart.

“You do have to pay extra, but I think it’s worth it,” he said. “It took some time, but they seem to be doing it well. I’m happy to see this meaningful change.”