As a college student, it is crucial to feel as though the school you attend values your input and acts in favor of your wants and needs.
It usually comes down to voicing your concerns to the right person who is willing to listen.
That was the case for a student of Muslim faith at Minnesota State University, Mankato who chose to speak with Arnavee Maltare, the Vice President of MNSU’s Student Government.
The student advocated for the addition of Halal food options at the Centennial Student Union food court.
Halal is meat from humanely slaughtered animals which is then cooked according to Islamic faith and traditions.
Halal food options are served at the University Dining Center, but the CSU is more accessible to students throughout the day. The CSU has a wide variety of food options, but up until a week ago, Halal food was not one of them.
That changed after Maltare was informed of one student’s struggles who shared the struggles of many Muslim students on campus.
Maltare then began to work in their favor. At the time, she was a Senator of Student Government and had connections to Mark Constantine, the Director of the CSU.
“I actually spoke to Mark about this request last year when I was Senator,” says Maltare. “But because of COVID-19, nothing happened.”
Maltare spoke with Constantine back in the Spring Semester of 2020 about adding Halal food options to the CSU. When MNSU shut down due to COVID-19, she was unable to follow up on her request.
When Maltare returned in the fall, she was elected Vice President of Student Government and picked up where she left off.
According to Maltare, “it only took a week to make it happen once I brought it up to Mark again.”
With the help of Constantine, Maltare’s request was brought to life.
“I told Arnavee that I would contact Jamie Waterbury, the Dining Services General Manager,” says Constantine.
Constantine had a meeting with Waterbury the following day and brought Maltare’s request forward.
“He was very clear right away,” says Constantine. “He said that we could bring some food over to the Union Grill and put some signs up that say Halal food options are now available.”
According to Constantine, if a student asks for Halal food at the Union Grill, they are now able to choose between Halal beef patties and chicken patties. The choices are similar to those in the Dining Center.
“If somebody wanted a beef or chicken burger, they would now be able to get that at the CSU,” says Constantine.
Although the options are limited, it is a start.
“We are at least providing something that would be officially in the Halal range of foods,” says Constantine. “If somebody else has any requests, we certainly would take that into consideration and try to come up with a solution.”
Both Maltare and the student who brought up the initial concern are pleased with how quickly their request was acted upon.
Other Muslim students at MNSU share the same reaction to the news.
Subhan Khalid, a Graduate Student at MNSU, says he is excited to have the option to order Halal food at the CSU.
Khalid has been a student at MNSU for six years since he began his undergraduate journey back in 2014.
When he first arrived on campus, the only place he could get Halal food was a restaurant located off campus that was a 30-minute walk and a 10-minute drive.
“It was really hard to find food at that time,” says Khalid. “Especially if you didn’t have your own form of transportation.”
Approximately three to four years later, the University Dining Center began serving Halal food. However, the instant access to it is yet to be available.
“You have to call and order 30 minutes ahead of time,” says Khalid.
Khalid explains that the Dining Center requires students to call beforehand to limit the food waste if no one asks for Halal food in person.
He also says that a benefit of that rule is always being served fresh food, rather than the mass produced meals created for everyone.
However, having to wait 30 minutes to eat is an inconvenience for students on the go. The addition of Halal food options at the CSU has helped ease that problem.
“I think it’s a good initiative,” Khalid says, when asked about his thoughts on the matter. “Considering most students come to the Student Union to get food.”
He believes that overall, the option to get Halal food at the CSU will help the Muslim community on campus get the food they need in a time efficient manner, in comparison to a 30 minute wait at the Dining Center.
Header photo: Mohammad Mafaz, a Muslim student from Sri Lanka, shows his Halal chicken patty burger Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 in the CSU. “It’s not bad,” he said. “I will definitely be getting this once or twice a week.” (Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter)