Since 2014, Ryerson has offered halal lunch and dinner options daily at two campus locations: the International Living/Learning Centre and the Pitman Dining Hall. Halal options first became available on campus in 2013 and Ryerson Eats has consulted closely with the Muslim Students’ Association to improve the halal food options available to Ryerson community members. Together they have made great progress when it comes to inclusive food choices on campus.
But Jewish students who keep kosher still have no options. That needs to change.
According to a study from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, a student’s nutrition has a direct impact on their ability to learn. Therefore, the better a person eats, the better their brain will function. So it’s especially important that Ryerson, a university that claims around half of its students are visible minorities, provide food for every dietary restriction.
Some might think that because Ryerson is located downtown, there are many kosher restaurants in the area, but this isn’t the case. Many of the city’s kosher restaurants are too far north, because Toronto’s largest Jewish populations live in Forest Hill and North York. The nearby hospital food courts and a Bay Street restaurant, Bannock, are some of the only places that offer kosher food within walking distance of Ryerson.
The fact is, most other Ontario universities seem to have it together when it comes to kosher food. York University has several kosher food options right on its campus. The University of Toronto serves kosher food at eight campus cafeterias. McMaster University has kosher sandwiches and pastries brought onto campus. And students at Wilfrid Laurier University can purchase kosher meals and access a kosher microwave in the dining hall.
So what’s the deal with Ryerson?
One problem is that students who eat kosher have not expressed a desire to have it on campus, Ryerson Eats, the organization that provides food on campus, told the Ryersonian in an email. They also said that it is particularly difficult to serve kosher food, because not only does it have to be prepared according to kosher law, but it has to be made in a kosher kitchen, something that Ryerson doesn’t have.
What Ryerson should do is bring in kosher sandwiches and pastries and serve them at cafeterias around campus. This is an easy and cost-effective option that could be enacted quickly, but would have a big impact.
Students who keep kosher shouldn’t have to ask Ryerson to provide them food. It is a basic human right, after all.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said that this year is the first time Ryerson Eats is offering halal meal options. In fact, Ryerson Eats began offering halal options in 2013 and as of 2014 has offered halal options daily at lunch and dinner at the International Living/Learning Centre and the Pitman Dining Hall.