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Students say campus offers inadequate kosher dining options

Covel Commons Residential Restaurant is the only UCLA Dining venue on the Hill to offer kosher meals. Students said they think kosher options could be improved and expanded. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Thomas Lim

May 7, 2019 12:02 am

Students said they think UCLA Dining’s kosher food practices could be improved.

Concerns from students include food safety practices, scarcity of options, and mixing kosher foods and foods following other religious dietary guidelines. Covel Commons Residential Restaurant is the only dining establishment on the Hill that offers kosher meals, which adhere to a set of dietary restrictions in the Jewish community.

Ran Noy, a fourth-year philosophy student who keeps kosher, said after two trips to the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center due to food poisoning, he decided to take photos of prepackaged kosher meals to document how long they were available to students.

Noy said he reported his concerns about food safety to the UCLA Office of Environment, Health & Safety, an entity which ensures compliance with health regulations. EH&S reported there were zero food safety violations, said UCLA spokesperson Alison Hewitt.

Hewitt said EH&S conducted an unannounced on-site health inspection of the Covel dining hall Feb. 21 and reported zero health violations of food handling, temperature control and facility cleanliness for kosher food options offered at the dining hall.

“EH&S inspected kosher meals served at Covel for safety of storage and handling and found that kosher meals were all appropriately kept frozen, never thawed or refrigerated, and kept for no more than six months, as recommended by the manufacturer,” Hewitt said.

Noy said he thinks perfect health inspection results are impossible and that EH&S’s inspection may be biased due to conflicts of interest regarding how inspections are conducted. The office trains university workers in food safety policies and inspects their compliance with these policies, according to the EH&S website.

“The same person who actually investigated those complaints, he is the same person who is training the employees,” Noy said. “The person who’s training is not going to go admit to the problems with the training of the employees.”

A Los Angeles County Department of Public Health spokesperson said a perfect health inspection is possible but unlikely.

“While unlikely, it is possible for no violations to be found at the time of a food facility inspection,” the representative said.

UCLA Dining does not fall under LA County jurisdiction because its food is not sold for retail.

Devorah Norton, a third-year philosophy student who keeps kosher, said she thinks UCLA Dining has mishandled kosher food.

“They have given away my food to Muslim students then offered me Halal food even though it’s not the same thing,” Norton said. “They did not offer kosher for Passover food.”

One student said he thinks kosher options should be expanded on campus.

Justin Feldman, a third-year Middle Eastern studies and political science student who keeps kosher, said he thinks there is a scarcity of kosher food options available to Jewish students on campus. There are some kosher options off campus, Feldman said, but having to leave campus for food is inconvenient, especially during exam season.

He added he thinks UCLA should offer more to-go kosher options.

“I would love for there to be more accommodation for to-go foods … to make sure there are more options available … that they have sizable portions and not overly priced,” Feldman said.

Noy and Norton met with Maria Blandizzi, the dean of students, about their concerns, but said they have not received an update on the situation.

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