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Brown University opening new kitchens to accommodate dietary restrictions

A dedicated kosher kitchen, a halal station and an allergy-friendly kitchen are all in the works.
Kosher food
The university has teamed up with STAR-K, a kosher certification service, to bring in chefs who are trained in kosher concepts to the dining team. / Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Brown University is making changes to its biggest dining hall to better accommodate students with dietary restrictions.

The university is set to open a dedicated kosher kitchen, a halal station and an allergy-friendly kitchen in fall 2023.

The goal behind these new spaces is to provide consistent, easy meal access for students who observe Jewish or Islamic dietary laws or have other food restrictions, according to a statement.

Currently, the university does offer options for students with dietary restrictions, but those require students to enroll in specific dining programs that often include ordering ahead or outsourcing to caterers.

George Barboza, Brown’s vice president of dining programs, said the new facilities are part of the university’s commitment to supporting community building among students.

“We know that the shared experience of gathering for meals is tremendously important in creating connections,” he said in a statement. “This really allows for a robust community where students of many religious backgrounds and ethnicities can get good meals and share them in a dining hall, without the restriction of having to eat certain meals in particular places or at certain times.”

The kosher area will include a full kitchen for meat preparation and a separate full kitchen for the preparation of dairy items. The university has teamed up with STAR-K, a kosher certification service, to bring in chefs who are trained in kosher concepts to the dining team. Additionally, the partnership brings a mashgiach, or a supervisor who oversees the preparation of kosher meals.

The university is also adding a station that will serve as a dedicated space for halal foods. While Brown already serves halal-certified chicken, the new station will allow for more variety and consistency.

In addition, a new allergy-free kitchen is in the works. The kitchen will have its own dedicated cookware, utensils, pots, pans and other equipment. All meals prepared in this space will be free of common allergens, including peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy.

Under the current program, students with allergies must participate in a custom ordering program where they choose their meals in advance.

“This will definitely offer more variety, and students won’t feel like they have to go pick up their food separately just to be able to find a safe meal,” said Michelle Blais, director of wellness and nutrition at Brown University.

Barboza said the new options are being brought to campus in part due to community feedback.

“The recipes are great, and it’s going to be good food that most people want to eat,” he said. “Even without looking through a kosher or halal lens, it’s simply just good food!”

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