Expanding School Cafeteria Menus for Halal Students

The Pew Research Center has reported that by 2040, our Muslim population will represent the United States’ second-largest religious group1. This community is forecast to double to an estimated 8.1 million, overtaking our Jewish population.
About half (48%) of this Muslim segment consider eating halal essential to their identity2. As this population grows and becomes increasingly participative, access to allowable food options in supermarkets, restaurants, and catering has expanded and accelerated. However, at the same time, school, college, and university breakfast and lunch menus are lagging regarding these vital cultural dietary choices.
Why Should Educational Institutions Include More Halal Menu Items?
Consider Illinois. The state has the country’s most significant per capita Muslim population. However, while over 90% of the state’s Muslim residents observe halal guidelines, 39% of school-age and 32% of college-age students have no access to permissible food in their institutions3. For example, a 2021 survey at Chicago’s Sullivan High School indicates that over 80% of Muslim students “always or often feel hungry because there are no suitable halal food options at school.”
According to the Chicago Sun Times, this is likely due to low awareness and understanding of these requirements. Also contributing is a lack of prioritization and funding to support culturally-aligned initiatives4. Beyond being unacceptably exclusive and discriminatory, this failure may compromise Muslim scholars’ and students’ food security and well-being. To address this gap, legislators, school boards, and administrators need an enhanced understanding of halal dietary rules and their importance.
What Does Eating a Halal Diet Mean?
The term “Halal” means permissible and refers to foodstuffs allowed by Islamic Sharia law. These ingredients include meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic law but exclude “haram” (non-permissible) products, such as pork, and intoxicants, such as alcohol. Halal meat products are labeled as such, while fruit, vegetables, and most other ingredients are allowed as is.
Lawful Muslim food and beverage eating regulations are relatively straightforward. However, preparation requires attention. Halal and haram meat must be prepared separately and according to strict hygiene standards. For example, a dedicated chopping board, knives, a preparation area for allowable foods, and separate containers are essential.
Expanding Cafeteria Menus to Embrace Halal Options
Fortunately, Muslim students may no longer need to stick to vegetarian options or go hungry. In response to feedback and research, organizations around the country are working to accommodate school, college, and university Muslim dietary needs by developing training programs and halal guidelines.
These forerunners include the Portland-based Cultivating Community and Cumberland County Food Security Council, Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA), Chartwells Higher Ed, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Proposals include educating, developing standard operating procedures, and providing staff training.
The process will include ethical sourcing and scrutinizing ingredients for anything haram. These by-products could include alcohol, animal shortening, mono and diglycerides, even pure vanilla extract (which contains trace amounts of alcohol), and whey. It will also detail how to store, prepare, and cook these products and meals separately to prevent cross-contamination.
Most critically, only certified halal products and ingredients should be used. So, manufacturers producing and institutions looking for documented halal cafeteria meals and ingredients – rely on Advanced Biotech’s pure, natural, EU-and halal-certified molecules.
Increase Menu Appeal and Inclusivity With Advanced Biotech
Where applicable, our extensive range of plant-based taste and aroma components and raw materials are halal-certified by the Islamic Services of America (ISA). This recognition means that Advanced Biotech’s facilities, ingredients, and processes have been reviewed, approved, and certified compliant.
Our verified flavor and odor collection includes pyrazines, thiazoles, distillates, and other natural extracts. Expand your menu or portfolio today – contact us to place your order.

1 https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/01/03/new-estimates-show-u-s-muslim-population-continues-to-grow/
2 https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2017/09/01/strong-religious-beliefs-are-only-one-part-of-muslim-american-identity/
3 https://muslimciviccoalition.org/illinois-muslims-report
4 https://chicago.suntimes.com/education/2022/5/26/23143065/chicago-public-schools-cps-lunches-religious-dietary-requirements-jewish-muslim-students-lopez