Just a few months ago a new addition was added to the school lunch menus in the district of Malden, with the introduction of Halal chicken. 

However, this new addition to the menus has gone mostly unnoticed at Malden High School, as many students were not informed of its arrival. Currently, the District Health Service Office is having trouble providing Halal food again as it has been in high demand from their provider, but they are actively attempting to provide it again with the help of their Food Management Company Aramark. But, there has been a rise in “product shortages,” explained Assistant Food Service Director at Malden Public Schools, Kate Filteau.

On March 14th, the district provided a limited amount of Halal meals consisting of Halal and Gluten Free Chicken Tenders, and a “Mediterranean Bowl made with Rice, Halal Chicken Tenders, Pickled Onion, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Yellow Peppers and Hummus,” according to the Malden Public Schools Food Service Facebook. 

Mayor Gary Christenson explained that they are “always trying to improve our food options” as a school district. The idea to implement Halal food was first requested by students and then “the School Committee discussed it at a meeting and then the school department, led by our School Business Manager Toni Mertz, worked to make it happen.”

As of right now, due to Halal food being such a new addition to the district’s menu, it is only being offered for one day a month. Christenson explained that this is mainly due to the fact that they wanted time to “work out any kinks associated with the change to the menu.”

Filteau explained that recently the Food Service Department has been attempting to “encompass the cultural diversity that Malden has.” In order to do this they have worked to “incorporate more diverse foods,” said Filteau. For example, the sale of foods in the cafeteria such as Brazilian Chicken, or Teriyaki Chicken. 

But how do they decide what food to offer? Essentially the team will try “to look at the demographics of the city.” Filteau explained that they use this information to try and understand the specific groups of people in Malden. And with this information, they try to understand what kinds of ethnic foods they can offer students that would both fit their specific requirements while also being something that people will enjoy.

However, the ideas for their recipes do not only come from their own. Filteau encourages students to share their ideas with the office, from ethnic recipes to just foods that they like to eat. Filteau explained that they try their best to “find the most popular,” food in order to best serve their student body.

Additionally, when considering how to offer a Halal menu so that Muslim students have better options, the pool of options becomes even smaller. But naturally, the hard workers at the Food Services Office have worked hard to try and provide it. 

However, Filteau explained that they had a lot of trouble finding Halal chicken in stock as food cannot just be bought but instead must be provided by their regular Food Provider. 

“Halal chicken becoming a recurring item on the MHS menu would be something very worth it, especially considering how many Muslim students attend MHS, it would really allow for us to be able to have a broader menu and not have to eat the same thing every day,” explained senior Asmae Sekhri. 

Senior Zineb Laghzaoui explained that though there are options for students who choose to abide by a Halal diet, many of these items are very limited. This causes many students to feel upset as they are stuck eating the same thing most days which consists of nachos, salads, and a few other smaller-sized meals, due to the fact that so many foods are offered with chicken or meat.

Laghzaoui went on to explain that she believes if Halal meat were to be offered, more students would be able to try new foods and would be more likely to order lunch as many choose to skip it. 

Overall the Food Service is doing its best to provide this new addition to the menu, with the hopes of it being more commonly offered throughout the district next school year.

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