Georgia Hall ’25 (She/Her), Staff Writer
Davidson has introduced Halal meat to daily dining. There are now three locations on campus where students can access halal food: Vail Commons, Davis Café’s Taaza Indian Food and Commons Market.
Halal in its most literal translation from Arabic means lawful or permitted. When applied to diet, it is an umbrella term for any food that is permissible for Muslims to eat. All meats are permissible other than pork, which is haram (not permissible). For halal meat in particular, the animal has to be blessed. However, fish does not require a blessing due to the manner in which it dies.
Elham Said ‘25 was the main instigator behind the change. When she first arrived from Egypt she tried following a pescetarian diet, like most of her peers at Davidson who kept halal. However, she found it limiting to abide by a fish-only diet and decided to speak with the administration to offer more options for halal students on campus.
“Davidson [College] and [going to] North Carolina [was] my dream for five years. One hundred percent I was sure it was a college that accepts diversity and accepts people from all backgrounds, and this was the first thing that encouraged me to speak,” Said said.
Said approached Rev. Rob Spach ‘84, the college Chaplain, who readily took on the mission and acted as an intermediary between the Muslim student community on campus and Dining Services. According to Spach, “We have had halal meat previously at Davidson…but for some reason, the distributors and things had changed during the COVID era, so going into this semester there wasn’t anything available.” Spach contacted the Director of Dining Services on Said’s behalf and immediately received a response.
Although the options were not available at the start of the year, the turnaround was rapid. “Within a day or two [Pinky Varghese, Director of Dining Services,] got back in touch with me and said that he had found an option for halal chicken specifically,” Spach said.
Varghese connected with various vendors to source the meat. “The first option is US foods, that’s our primary vendor and the second and third are through our third party[…]at the café.” The changes have been in place for about four weeks now, and despite the higher cost of sourcing halal meat and issues with the supply chain, US foods have a good procurement, according to Dining Services. Fortunately, this will allow halal options to be a permanent change in Vail Commons.
Currently, students have access to halal chicken in Vail Commons. According to Vargehese, students have to “send an email to the chef 24 hours in advance, or set days on which they want to have the meal.” The meal can then be collected from the “served without gluten station” in Commons.
Dining Services has also proposed another option where students would “pick three days, or three meals…and then they will have certain days when they want the meals,” said Varghese. Students are currently figuring out consistent meal times they will be at Commons to ensure the right quantity of food is prepared. So far only nine people have come forward and filled out the survey, but according to Rayed Hamid ‘24, President of the Muslim Student Association on campus, “so many students are now taking advantage” and are planning to take part in the new option soon.
Hamid commented that “a lot of students felt they did not have that kind of representation on campus” and have struggled in the past to voice their concerns about the lack of halal options. Hamid’s brother, Rasikh Hamid ‘22, approached Commons in his freshman year to try and get something in the works. At that time, Commons was doing a commemorative meal for Eid, and Hamid reached out to see if halal meat could be provided for the occasion. However, Dining Services said it wasn’t possible. Hamid shared his brother’s irritation that Muslims who were “strictly eating halal wouldn’t have been able to [enjoy the meal].”
The rapid reintegration of halal options on campus is a sign of student initiative and productive response by administration so that students have new halal options on their plate.