Eating Kosher on Campus

Can Students Eat Kosher on Campus?

A University of Wisconsin-Madison student had difficulty sticking to a strict kosher diet during college and finding acceptable foods to eat in the dining halls during the three years she lived in University Housing.

The kosher diet, also known as kashrut, has complicated guidelines for what is acceptable to eat, according to the student, junior Alanna Koritzinsky. She says it is challenging for many UW-Madison students to eat in the University Housing dining halls and still receive a healthy kosher meal.

“Basically in the kosher diet, you don’t mix meat and milk, you don’t eat anything that doesn’t chew its food twice or have like a line in a hoof,” Koritzinsky said. “I don’t eat pork, shellfish or anything along those lines.”

Koritzinsky also said in a stricter kosher diet, people own separate plates and silverware for meat products and dairy products. In some households, she said, they even have a separate fridge for each product, so meat and dairy are separated from each other.

In addition, in order for meat to be deemed kosher acceptable, a rabbi must bless the food in a ceremony, according to Koritzinsky.

“I have a friend who eats kosher at home, but eats any type of meat here on campus because it’s just too hard,” Koritzinsky said.

Koritzinsky said she basically avoids meat in dining halls and the unions because they do not provide kosher meat, which makes it difficult to get enough protein in her diet.

Another UW-Madison student Sarah Dicker, who follows the kosher diet, said when she lived in the residence halls last year, she also stuck to a vegetarian diet because she knew these entrees were not made with meat.

Dicker also said her diet is more strict back at home than it is on campus because it is more difficult to keep a complete kosher diet in college, especially eating at the dining halls.

“I grew up with two separate dishes at home,” Dicker said. “Today in college, I don’t keep two separate sets of dishes, but I don’t eat meat and milk together.”

In addition, some students have troubles finding food in the dining halls during Jewish holidays, such as Passover.

“Even though the dining hall provided one entre per meal per day in respect for the other Jewish students, they oftentimes had ingredients that weren’t allowed during Passover,” Dicker said.

However, some students who eat kosher say they do not have many problems finding food on campus.

“It is easy to avoid cheeseburgers, as the dining halls have a build your own hamburger station,” UW-Madison freshman Grace Schneck said. “I sometimes have to avoid the global foods station because of pork, but I never have trouble finding something to eat.”

Additionally, UW-Madison junior, Asaf Segal said he’s not as strict with his kosher diet at school compared to at home. However, he said he does not have much difficulty finding acceptable foods in the unions and dorms.

UW-Madison students said one idea to help people find kosher food on campus is for UW Housing to implement a kosher meal plan again in the dining halls.

Koritzinsky said UW Housing used to have a kosher meal plan a few years ago, but it was cancelled for several reasons.

Denise Bolduc, University Housing assistant food service director, said they closed the kosher kitchen in Rheta’s Dining Hall for business reasons.

“A decision was made to close it when it became difficult to recruit and retain mashgiahs to supervise the kitchen,” Bolduc says.  “Another factor was the station wasn’t used to the extent that we thought it might be.”

UW Hillel, campus center for Jewish life, opened a kosher kitchen on Langdon Street and students who want to eat kosher at UW-Madison can eat there, Bolduc said.

However, Koritzinsky said the problem with Hillel’s kitchen is that only students living in the Statesider apartments can get the kosher meal plan.

“Eating at Hillel gets expensive quickly because I end up eating there a lot, Koritzinsky said. “I’m probably there two or three times a week.”

Instead of implementing an entire meal plan, students and Hillel staff said just offering more kosher-friendly food items in the dining halls is another way UW Housing could help Jewish students.

Sharon Langer, who runs the UW Hillel dining service, said, “I think it would be great if the dorms and Fresh Market would carry grab-and-go kosher sandwiches and salads that could be prepared at Hillel and delivered to the various locations.”

Some students, such as Dicker, would like at least more options available in the dining halls and unions during Passover.

However, with the new dining facilities being constructed and updated on campus, improvements in kosher food have been made.

Bolduc said that UW Housing now has pre-packaged food with a designation of Kosher in some of their dining hall convenience stores.

“I have to say, with the new Gordon’s I feel like they’ve done a decent job,” said Koritzinsky. Having the pasta available everyday helps, and then there’s the salad and pizza.”

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