At the beginning of the fall semester, the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center opened a new grocery line offering vegan kosher food. The new station increases the availability of food for students with dietary restrictions.
The new food line, which is located opposite the salad bar in the canteen, replaces the previous “Beans, vegetables and cereals” station at this point. Because the line is both vegan and kosher, it contains no meat or dairy options and primarily serves foods like grains, beans, tofu, and more.
Jeannine Pecoraro, a sophomore who eats vegetarian and sometimes vegan, said the new line has helped expand her diet options at Dewick.
“I prefer [the kosher line] to the vegetarian section they had last year,” Pecoraro said. “I definitely have a lot more choice and lots of fresh vegetables and all the vegetarian meals I could want.”
For food to be considered kosher, its ingredients and preparation must conform to kashrut, the Jewish food laws outlined in the Torah. Restricted foods under kashrut include pork and shellfish. In addition, meat must not be consumed together with dairy products.
Some foods in a kosher kitchen need to be segregated; Meat and dairy products must not be stored together and different utensils are usually used for each product.
Asher Berlin, a second-year kosher student, explained how he finds ways to eat in the dining room even when there are no designated kosher options.
“When I’m in the canteen, it’s basically an elimination process, only the ingredients are checked,” says Berlin. “When something with meat has milk in it, the worst comes to the worst… I’ll get pizza and maybe some rice. Or I try to do my best [with] some vegetables, boiled eggs or some pasta.”
Some popular options at the kosher station so far have been the varied tofu dishes and the make-your-own grain bowl station, which offers various toppings such as roasted vegetables, nuts and homemade dressings.
The need for kosher food was brought to Tufts Dining’s attention by Rabbi Naftali Brawer, the executive director of Tufts Hillel and the university’s Jewish minister. Patti Klos, director of dining and business services at Tufts, described how this new option aims to expand dining options for students with a variety of dietary restrictions.
“Tufts Dining strives to be inclusive and provide solutions to the dietary needs of students, including those who are rooted in their religion,” Klos wrote in an email to Daily. “Rabbi Brawer and we saw a need for a fully kosher dining option in a residential dining center and we worked closely together in creating this option for students. A full meat and/or dairy cuisine was not currently feasible, and a plant-based option was feasible.”
This new line is just one of several efforts in recent years to improve accessibility for students with dietary restrictions. Dewick also has an All-9 Free section that offers foods free of the nine most common food allergies. Last year, the Carmichael Dining Center transitioned to a tree nut, peanut and gluten free facility.
To ensure full kosher compliance, the dining center has worked closely with Rabbi Brawer as well as a team of trained Mashgichim students who oversee the station to ensure kashrut is observed. Because kosher meat and dairy typically require their own separate sets of plates, the kosher station uses compostable plates to avoid cross-contamination.
Despite the positive feedback for the new channel, other students found the channel’s offering underwhelming.
“Personally, I wasn’t very impressed by that,” said Berlin. “I’m not someone who goes vegan on a regular basis. So in general I would consider it a pretty bad night if the only thing I could eat was in it [station]. But someone who is vegan might have had a different experience.”
Klos said Tufts Dining plans to continue increasing vegan options in all restaurants while also accommodating the dietary needs of all students.
“We continue to introduce more and more vegan options on menus throughout the dining room to meet student food preferences and be more sustainable,” Klos wrote. “The Tufts Dining team continually evaluates our menu to meet the dietary needs of our students.”
Despite Berlin’s personal opinion on the new line, he acknowledged the importance of increasing access to kosher food.
“The fact that the university is increasingly committed to making it easier for Jewish students to practice their religion on campus is significant and, in my opinion, a step in the right direction,” said Berlin. “But I would say there is still work to be done if they are to achieve that goal.”