Date September 21, 2023
Media Contact

New kosher, halal and allergen-aware kitchens serve up inclusivity, nourishment at Brown

Dedicated kitchen spaces in Sharpe Refectory provide students from a wide range of religious identities and cultural backgrounds with consistent, convenient access to high-quality meals.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — New dedicated kosher, halal and allergen-aware spaces in the largest dining hall on Brown’s campus are providing fresh and accessible meals for students who observe Jewish or Islamic dietary laws, or who have food allergies or other specific dietary requirements.

Brown Dining Services opened the new spaces on Wednesday, Sept. 20, in Sharpe Refectory — affectionately known as the Ratty — where students are savoring food prepared in a new kosher kitchen, an enhanced halal station and an allergen-aware kitchen.

The new spaces were a welcome sight for many students, including sophomore Victoria Zang, who visited Wednesday after morning classes to enjoy a meal prepared in the new kosher kitchen.

“I would usually try to eat the normal offerings, but it was difficult,” Zang said of the kosher options previously available in the Ratty. But now, “if you keep kosher, if you don’t keep kosher — it doesn’t matter. It’s for everyone.”

While the University previously offered dining options for students with these restrictions, it required enrollment in specific dining programs, some of which involved advance ordering or outsourcing to caterers.

But now, kosher, halal and allergen-aware options are mainstays in Sharpe Refectory and fully available to anyone on a Brown dining plan — no special sign-ups or ordering necessary, according to Vice President for Dining Programs George Barboza.

A sign marks the opening of the new kitchen spaces
A sign marks the Sept. 20 opening of the new kitchens within the Ratty.

“This really allows for a robust community where students of many religious backgrounds 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,” Barboza said.

Accessibility and an array of options were a priority in the development of the kitchens and the menus, Barboza said, offering good food that people — regardless of religious affiliation or dietary restrictions — would want to eat.

That was the case for Liam Melvin, a sophomore who stopped by the enhanced halal station to order a customized kabob bowl for lunch on Wednesday. All fresh chicken served in Brown facilities is already certified halal, but the creation of the new station allows for more variety.

Melvin visits the halal station not because of any specific need; rather, it’s what he craves the most.

“It seems like the healthiest option, and I think the food here just tastes better,” Melvin said.

The enhanced halal station prepares food in accordance with Islamic dietary law, while the allergen-aware kitchen serves meals prepared without peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish, soy, sesame or gluten. And the kosher kitchen includes a full kitchen for the preparation of meat, a separate full kitchen for the preparation of dairy items, and a full-time mashgiach — a supervisor who oversees the preparation of kosher meals.

“ It allows for Jewish students and non-Jewish students to be immersed together and foster this sense of mutual understanding. From a cultural level, it’s really significant. ”

Daniel Solomon Class of 2026

The new spaces complement a series of new dining offerings and enhanced services implemented in recent years to strengthen the dining experience for Brown community members. Those range from refreshed food options at Andrews Dining Hall and the Blue Room, to mobile ordering and extended hours at dining facilities, to a recently completed renovation at the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall (nicknamed V-Dub) and the addition of private and shared kitchens in the new Chen Family and William and Ami Danoff residence halls.

For Zang and fellow sophomore Daniel Solomon, it’s working.

Solomon and Zang said before the new spaces opened, they generally kept “kosher style” — meaning they tried not to eat forbidden foods or mix milk and meat, but the food itself might not be certified kosher — but now it’s much easier to stay motivated to adhere to Jewish dietary tradition.

“It’s a relief that I don’t have to worry about my options,” Solomon said. “I’m confident in knowing that this food is safe and up to proper standard.”

And his appreciation of the new kitchen goes beyond just access; it speaks to a larger positive investment in Brown’s Jewish community, Solomon said.

“By making these options a normal part of the dining hall, there’s this general public education component,” Solomon said, “It allows for Jewish students and non-Jewish students to be immersed together and foster this sense of mutual understanding. From a cultural level, it’s really significant.”