Chartwells addresses concerns about religious dietary restrictions

Workers+prepare+food+at+the+Smith+Cafe

James Bartlett

Workers prepare food at the Smith Cafe

Despite recent student complaints about the dining quality on campus, Chartwells is working to provide inclusive options for those with religious dietary restrictions.

Many students felt that Sodexo, the previous dining service, failed to provide food to those with specific dietary needs in years past. Miki Larson, an interior design student and vegan, said to the Journal last year that Sodexo’s options were lackluster. 

“I often felt really defeated trying to find something of nutritional value to eat,” said Larson.

Students hoped that Chartwells would provide more options for those with concerns.

Michael Edwards, general manager of Chartwells at Suffolk, discussed the company’s efforts to provide food for those with dietary restrictions in an email sent to The Suffolk Journal last month.

“We are working with our regional culinary team to revamp the menus to include additional vegan, vegetarian and halal meats,” Edwards said. “Currently all our chicken products at the global station are non-breaded halal.”

Rev. Amy Fisher, the university chaplain and director of the Interfaith Center, said that Chartwells has held up to expectations set by students with religious dietary restrictions so far.

“[Chartwells] has been very open to discussion. They confirmed as recently as last Monday that the chicken breast was certified halal in all full service cafès,” Fisher said. “What I’m waiting for is confirmation on halal grab and go options in those places.”

Fisher said kosher foods can be more complicated to serve due to the need for separate kitchens. However, she said that supplying grab and go options is an important step that Chartwells has taken.

Since the grab and go options are not cooked on campus, students have a different experience with the food.

“I’m not hearing bad things about it, but the expectations are very different on pre-packaged kosher foods,” Fisher said. “I’m hearing that economically, it’s more expensive for students, but that’s just the reality of the kosher food certification.”

Fisher explained that she asks kosher and halal-restricted students to go out to dining halls and cafès to report back on what options are actually in place. 

“What happens is that it’s Jewish students that actually go out and confirm for me what they have and if it’s edible,” Fisher said. 

Fisher said that any students with concerns about religious dietary restrictions should contact her at [email protected].edu.