Imagine Binghamton University Nite Owl, giant chocolate chip pancakes on Sunday mornings or getting lunch at the Marketplace. The kosher-observant students at BU can never experience these priceless moments. Meals are how friends and memories are made, and good nutrition is vital to mental health and academic success.
Yet, kosher-keeping Jewish students are not given the dining services they need, compromising both their health and college experience.
According to Hillel at Binghamton, BU’s Jewish population makes up about 30 percent of the population. This is the highest percentage of Jewish students at any public university in the United States, yet the only place on campus where kosher food can be found is the Kosher Korner in Chenango Champlain Collegiate Center (C4). Don’t get me wrong, it is a great resource for the Jewish population, but not nearly satisfactory.
While the entirety of the Jewish population does not keep kosher, even those who don’t would feel more welcome if the choices were available. More importantly, those who are observant and live on campus are left with no options other than what the Kosher Korner is serving. Moreover, since Hissho Sushi replaced the C-Store in the Marketplace in Fall 2016, which used to carry pre-made kosher sandwiches, observant students can’t grab lunch with friends between classes in the Marketplace or a different dining hall. They are forced to eat solely on the edge of campus in C4.
This population is also forced to try to live in either Dickinson Community or Newing College due to the proximity to kosher food, regardless of whether or not they like those living communities.
The lack of variety of options also makes it nearly impossible for observant Jews on campus to consume a healthy diet. For example, the Kosher Korner’s lunch menu one day consisted of the options of sweet potato fries, Napa Valley steamed vegetables, scratch cheese sauce and fish nuggets. For dinner, it offered beef hard and soft tacos, Aztec corn and Mexican fiesta rice. Not only is this far from a nutritious and balanced meal, but it also does not cater to observant Jews with eating restrictions that stretch beyond keeping kosher.
While offering some small healthy items, and on occasion, nutritious food items such as salmon and chicken, consuming solely from the Kosher Korner will not consistently provide our bodies with the nutrition we need. Moreover, the “healthy” options offered are often not very appetizing. Poor nutrition leads to increases in stress, depression, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. How can we expect students to be happy and be successful in school without providing them with access to healthy food?
The Kosher Korner also does not provide options for those with additional dietary restrictions. Students who suffer from ailments like irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease are at a disadvantage if the food at the Kosher Korner doesn’t cater to their needs. No student should be left without access to food.
Our University must invest in kosher dining services. One dining area on the entire campus for observant Jews to eat from is not acceptable in any university, especially not at BU. The school should provide necessary accommodations for its students and leaves a large percentage of the school’s population feeling like outsiders.
Adding additional kosher dining will not take anything away from the nonobservant students, and will simply serve to make BU more inclusive. Additionally, kosher food eateries would also benefit the University’s Muslim population — most observant Muslims who keep halal can eat kosher food.
Camaraderie and a sense of community are factors that can make or break a college experience. When you are at your lowest point, a strong sense of belonging will provide you with the strength to overcome your obstacles by providing you with a sense of importance and support.
Failing to provide adequate food options is a form of discrimination and creates an atmosphere of disunity. While some will argue that the circumstances I have described only apply to a minority of individuals, not even one person should be made to feel excluded at BU.
It is only practical to add additional kosher dining. So, let’s make BU a home to all with more options so everyone can eat.
Michael Harel is a junior majoring in political science.