Kosher meal plan expands with stir-fry option

Ben Figa

Jewish grandmothers no longer need to worry about their hungry grandchildren keeping kosher at college. This year, a trial kosher meal program has come as a blessing to Jewish students with dietary restrictions.

The Kosher Kiosks in Allison and Sargent halls have served to gauge student interest in a kosher alternative and work out an effective program for those who keep a strict dietary regimen. The plan is expanding, too. Organizers will launch a kosher stir-fry station Thursday in Allison and will continue serving kosher food for the rest of the year.

“(The stir fry) is a first step to a more expanded program,” said Rabbi Dov Klein, supervisor of the kosher meal program. “I think it is a great enhancement. As more sign up and more interest is out there, the variety can increase immensely.”

Dana Levit, assistant director of university food services and operations, declined to comment on whether the meal plan would continue next year.

The development of the program has been successful, even though fewer students than expected have signed up, said Klein of Tannenbaum Chabad House.

The program makes Northwestern more appealing to prospective students who keep kosher, said Mark Dredze, who helped develop the program.

“The program has really changed NU,” said Dredze, a McCormick junior. “I work for the admissions office, and it has changed the dynamic of who applies. When I was a freshman, it was impossible to imagine a large observant population.”

Klein agreed that having a kosher alternative is crucial to attracting diversity to the student body.

“Those students who have (keeping) kosher as a top priority do not choose Northwestern as an option,” he said. “All of the schools that we compete with – (University of Pennsylvania), Stanford – have had a kosher meal program in place for five to 10 years. We’ve had a couple of students transfer out because of (the lack of an adequate Kosher alternative).”

The kiosk program also caters to the dietary restrictions for Muslims, whose diet, halal, is similar to keeping kosher.

Students on the trial program said they are pleased with the upcoming stir fry.

“I would definitely venture to Allison for stir fry once a week,” said Avery Maron, a Weinberg sophomore who lives in Ayers College of Commerce and Industry on North Campus.

The Kosher Kiosks are an addition to the already-existing meal plan. Students have their cards swiped at the register and are then given a key to go to the kiosk. There, they can choose from meat and dairy food, separated as dietary laws require.

The program costs $50 extra for students who receive 13 meals per week and $150 extra for those who receive five or eight meals per week.

Dredze praised the university for its efforts.

“The university has done well, (and) if there are any points to improve, it has just been implementation,” he said. “Just like the first day on a job, you make some mistakes. Many employees do not have direct experience with (keeping) kosher.”