Arizona State University launches kosher meal options

Hassayampa Academic Village

Hassayampa Academic Village. Photo by Robin Kiyutelluk

Sun Devil Dining at Arizona State University has long offered quality, value, variety and convenience with an array of meal options available in dining halls, fast casual restaurants, cafes and on-campus markets.

Now, the menu will expand this fall to include kosher meal options. ASU will introduce kosher lunches and dinners at the Hassayampa Academic Village Dining Hall on the Tempe campus enabling Jewish students to easily follow kosher dietary laws.

The new dining options will launch this August as students return for the 2018-2019 academic year. Plans for expansion on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses are being explored.

The introduction of the kosher meal plan meets an important need for students of the Jewish faith who keep kosher, said Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Chabad at ASU.

About 3,500 Jewish students attend ASU, representing five percent of the student body. Chabad at ASU is an organization committed to serving the social, educational and spiritual needs of students while celebrating Jewish culture.

“I was contacted by Jewish students and parents eager for kosher provision at ASU,” Rabbi Tiechtel said. "Thousands of Jewish students come to Arizona State and find a welcoming, positive Jewish community experience here. But kosher meal options take our Jewish provision to another level, making ASU truly one of the best places in America to be a Jewish student.”

In recent years, the Hillel Jewish Student Center also has worked with ASU to bring kosher food to campus. Hillel welcomes students from all backgrounds to engage with the Jewish community, providing leadership development, local career mentoring, ongoing classes, social and religious events and Israel education initiatives. 

“I have found ASU to be a strong and active partner in making the university increasingly more welcoming for Jewish students who keep kosher,” said Debbie Yunker Kail, executive director of the Hillel Jewish Student Center.

With the support of ASU President Michael Crow, Rabbi Tiechtel brought together students from the Jewish community and administrators within University Housing and Dining in early 2018 to discuss plans to introduce expanded kosher meal options at ASU.

“For a long time kosher food was only accessible by car, unless I went to Chabad for food,” said Hannah Widawer, a senior majoring in tourism development and management. 

As the result of the student-led initiative, the new kosher dining options at ASU’s Tempe campus will include lunch and dinner every day, featuring a variety of dishes such as grilled Jamaican jerk chicken, fajitas, Thai curry and vegan mac 'n' cheese.

“It’s great that we’ll have another dining option while I’m at school,” Widawer said. “I think that the kosher meals on campus will allow many Jews to consider applying to Arizona State when they couldn’t before. It’s a huge step for the growth of the Jewish student community.”

The expanded kosher meal options strengthen the university’s efforts to provide the best experience possible for all students, said Jennifer Hightower, vice president of student services at ASU.

“Whether students are having a meal or taking time out for a quick bite in a Sun Devil Dining location, dining on campus plays an integral role in their college experience,” Hightower said.

In successfully bringing kosher dining options to ASU, students keeping kosher can dine on campus with other ASU students with ease.

“When Rabbi Shmuel told me about (the kosher meal options) I was excited to find out that I wouldn’t have to keep cooking at home while my friends are at dining halls,” said Neta Galili, a junior double majoring in accounting and finance. “It’s so meaningful to me to see that people help me keep my identity and my way of life even when it comes to food. I am so thankful to have Chabad at ASU and I am thankful for amazing university leaders that made this dream a reality.”

Kail said the recent enhancements in Tempe and plans to explore kosher service on the other campuses are the latest demonstration of an ongoing partnership to support Jewish students in many ways.

“I am eager to share this exciting news with our community of students as well as the Greater Phoenix Jewish community,” Kail said. “We often have prospective families ask about kosher food options; I am confident the new lunch and dinner service will make it much easier for these families to choose an ASU education.” 

Written by Joan Sherwood

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