By: Kyros MoralesFor Mitzpeh@mitzpeh

This is the beginning of the form used for students interested in the South Campus Kosher Food pilot. Ayelette Halbfinger hopes to expand the program next semester. Photo taken from the Google Form

A new Kosher dining pilot program has begun at this university starting on April 19 and running through the end of the semester, providing students with an easier way to obtain Kosher food.

Students who are on the Hillel meal plan can sign up on Google Forms for lunch or dinner and pick up pre-made Kosher meals cooked and delivered to the South Campus Dining Hall by the Hillel chef.

They will not need to swipe their hand to enter the Dining Hall; they only need to tell the person at the door that they are there to pick up Kosher food. Students may pick up a meal twice a day and meals will be located in the newly established “Kosher Corner” area.

The program was pushed by Atara Kahn, a senior public policy and communications major and Ayelette Halbfinger, a sophomore operations management and business analytics major. They decided to set up this program because they felt that the access to Kosher food on campus was too limited.

According to Halbfinger, there are usually 100 students on the full meal plan and about 100-200 students on the partial meal plan. Currently, students who want to be on a Kosher meal plan must sign up through this university’s Maryland Hillel.

The Hillel’s hours are far more limited than the dining halls on campus and COVID-19 has only limited them further. The current meal plan at the Hillel does not offer dinner on Saturdays, leaving many students to have easy access to food.

“I would be on the other side of campus and couldn’t get to my meals a lot of times during the week and I couldn’t get Kosher food anywhere,” said Kahn. She mentioned that many of her friends shared that frustration with her.

In addition to issues with location and timing, there was also the social aspect of only being able to get food off-campus.

“I was often unable to eat with my friends,” said Halbfinger. “It’s so hard to feel as integrated in my community when so much bonding happens during mealtime.”

Kahn knew the incorporation of a Kosher dining plan was something she wanted to focus on when she joined SGA last year but was forced to wait when the pandemic shut the school down. Once back on campus, she started working with Halbfinger about how they could make this plan work.

In February, the two reached out to the dining services to pitch their idea. After discussing logistics and setting up multiple meetings with Hillel and dining services, the pilot program was created.

“Dining services have been so accommodating, I have a very positive feeling about this program,” said Kahn.

Colleen Wright-Riva, director of dining services, said that she was very excited to be working on this program. She mentioned that the university had tried catering to the students who follow Kosher diets by adding Kosher sandwiches in the shops around campus; however, she wants to be able to “exceed the needs” of students on campus.

“With the student interest in this semester’s pilot, we are certainly hopeful for is that we are able to expand the pilot to North campus in the fall,” said Wright-Riva.

Halbfinger added that North campus expansion is part of the many goals she has for the program.

These ideas include getting different food options such as microwavable bags that students can keep in their dorms for quick meals during finals week. She also mentioned opening up the program to students who are not on the Hillel meal plan.

“The chance to really explore and learn about who you are and what matters to you should be available to students and Kosher food is a part of that experience for a large number of students on campus,” said Halbfinger.


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