Officials Praise Student-Lead Halal Effort

Students, parents, and community members gathered at Crawford High School on June 10, 2015 to celebrate the success of integrating a Halal option for lunch. After two years of advocating and three months of testing the Halal Chicken Chili Lime Bowl pilot program, the students held their breath for the final verdict, waiting to see if the school district would continue to offer the lunch next year.

“There’s only one way to find out what the students will eat and that’s listening to the students tell you about the food they want to eat. So we hear you,” said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District. “We’re going to continue to work with you. We’re going to continue the Halal Chicken Drumsticks next year!”

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The Idea Behind the Chicken

For the 2015 school year, a chicken strutted up and down the campus of Crawford High School every Wednesday and Friday. Although the suit is funny, the idea behind the chicken is very serious: healthy school meals for every student.  

“We have the most diverse community in City Heights alone. Different people want different types of food,” said Gary Petill, Director of Food and Nutritional Services at San Diego Unified School District.

For many students in City Heights, school lunches may be the only nutrient-rich meal they eat all day, especially those whose families cannot afford to send them to school with a homemade lunch. With food options that some cultures cannot eat, many students go hungry, affecting their ability to focus in class and participate in afterschool activities.

“It seems reasonable,” said Petill, “I understand people want to preserve their culture.”

Through Mid-City CAN, students formed a Food Justice Momentum Team campaign to emphasize healthy and culturally appropriate foods in schools. Their solution: Halal chicken. Halal is an Islamic term that designates food – usually meat – and its preparation as permissible for Muslims to eat. Although this religious reference can make some uncomfortable, students want to let the community know that this campaign benefits everyone, regardless of religion or culture.

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