When Lewis Novack came to Carleton University from Halifax, Nova Scotia, three years ago, he was shocked to find out the school’s only residence cafeteria served no kosher food whatsoever.
Novack, now a third-year biology student, said he quickly realized that, although the cafeteria had options specifically for students with vegetarian and hallal needs, there were no options for students who observed kashrut.
“The residence cafeteria has halal, vegetarian and even vegan options to satisfy those people whose diet warranted it” he said. “Many kosher people live on campus, however, and I wondered why there were no kosher options for these students.”
First-year students who live in residence at Carleton are required to buy a full meal plan, which includes the use of the cafeteria. As a first-year, Novack found it extremely frustrating to travel all the way to the Loblaws at College Square to get kosher food, especially since he was paying a steep price for the cafeteria meal plan.
He decided to speak with Carleton’s vice-president for student services, as well as the manager and marketing directors of Aramark, the company that manages the Carleton cafeterias. He said they have provided support in rectifying the situation and assisted in bringing in kosher sandwiches as well as 40 pounds of kosher brisket last year.
Recently, Novack has come even further in his talks with the school’s administration and Aramark. On December 11, there was a full kosher meal served in the residence cafeteria. The university took the step of purchasing all new equipment, utensils and plates to be used for kosher food. All of the above will be used only for kosher and will remain separated when not being used. Moving forward, a kosher meal will be served twice monthly in the residence cafeteria with Novack and Hillel Ottawa director Scott Goldstein ensuring that kosher meat and sandwiches from the Rideau Bakery will be available.
Novack said this could very well make Carleton a much more appealing university choice to prospective students who observe kashrut.
“This is a great sign for our students and makes Carleton a strong contender for the entrance applications of observant students,” said Goldstein.
Although they are happy with what has been done already, both Novack and Goldstein believe there is still much to be done.
While the school has purchased all the required cutlery and utensils and will be keeping them separate, there is not a mashgiach to supervise the preparation of the food, so those students who strictly bserve kashrut are still not be able to eat there.
The next step, said Novack, is to have a mashgiach onsite ensuring the food is fully kosher.
In light of what still needs to be done, Novack and Goldstein, as well as many Jewish students at Carleton, are hopeful this will pave the way to a fully kosher kitchen – as there are at several other Canadian universities.
“In the end, I would like to see this be a sustainable option at Carleton University,” said Novack. “This is something that should be available to Jewish students and that many students will be able to take advantage of, Jewish or not.”