Accommodating food needs is prudent within reason

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 28, 2007 Ed Cartoon

This past week, Hospitality Services began selling Halal products in Centrespot. Moreover, Hospitality Services accommodates Jewish students in residence by providing Kosher foods during Passover and other religious holidays. These initiatives are limited, however, largely due to the prohibitive cost of meeting all these dietary needs.

Halal and Kosher foods are prepared differently from other products normally served by Hospitality Services. As such, making these products widely available throughout campus would come with an increased price tag for students. While there’s no evidence to suggest costs for these alternative services would be distributed among students not requiring them, it’s the university’s responsibility to ensure this doesn’t occur.

However, Western must maintain its commitment to student quality of life. It should therefore ensure student voices are heard on this matter. Its present initiatives are a good indication of its commitment thus far, but to expand these services further, the obvious issues of cost versus quality must be considered, and while it’s good to provide a wide range of services, there must be limitations to the costs these initiatives may incur.

Groups with special dietary needs must realize Western remains a secular university and, as such, they can’t have the same degree of choice as they do at home.

However, many students either adapt to these limitations by not restricting themselves to the required foods or by preparing their own food at home. Students in traditional residences aren’t allowed to cook their own food. They should be ensured the option of living in suite-style residences, where they can better accommodate their religious diets.

One other solution is contracting out caterers providing to food-specific needs. Students using these services would foot the cost of this food themselves without resulting in fee increases for others.

Whatever the solution, the university, as a business, maintains its right to continue turning a profit and therefore can’t always meet the demands of an expanding and increasingly diverse staff and student body. The Halal food choices in Centrespot exist only on a trial basis, and it remains to be seen whether these products will garner enough popularity to become financially feasible.

In any case, Western must be commended for this step in the right direction. Only through continued dialogue can further accommodations be reached.

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