NOTE (22/12/2014): Following further investigations, the patties sold at MGCI are indeed halal. We apologize for this incorrect detail. Students should direct questions to cafeteria staff about specific items on the menu. 

We’ve always been told that our school’s cafeteria food is Halal. This made sense, as the majority of Marc Garneau students are Muslim. Several weeks ago, this topic was being discussed in one of the cooking classes. While most of the students believed the food to be Halal, some disagreed.

Since then, many students have been going to the two cafeteria workers to ask if the specials are Halal.  When I asked the same question, a cafeteria worker replied, “Of course it is! Everything is; everything!” I decided to speak to their supervisor to find out where the meats come from. I set out to write this article to confirm to the students that the meat is 100% Halal. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

Cafeteria workers previously claimed that all food served was Halal.

When I asked the cafeteria supervisor if he could tell me where the Halal meat came from, he replied before I could even finish the question: “Oh, it’s not Halal.” Shocked, I asked him to repeat himself. If the supervisor could say the food isn’t Halal so confidently, why have we been always told otherwise by the cafeteria workers? The supervisor and I discussed the definition of Halal that is accepted by the majority of the students, and which of the food items would be Halal under this definition.

Halal means “permitted” in Arabic. If something is Halal, it means that it is permitted or approved of under the guidelines of the Qur’an. Acts such as consuming alcohol do not follow these guidelines. The term “Halal” is applied to more than just food. For example, behavior, dress, speech, manners, and performance can all be “Halal”.

For meat to be Halal, the animal must be slaughtered with a single cut to the jugular vein in the throat while a short prayer is recited. This is called Zabiha. It is intended to show respect for the animal by minimizing its suffering. Only then, the said meat is considered to be Halal.

The meat we receive at our school is not Halal certified, but Halal “acceptable.” This means that it contains no pork, but it was not killed by the method of Zabiha. The definition of Halal was misunderstood by the two cafeteria workers; that’s why we were told everything is Halal.

The misconception that the cafeteria food is all Halal has been around for many years, however the cafeteria food has never been Halal. In the interests of the students, the following table is provided to help clear up any confusion for students following a Halal diet and wish to eat at the school cafeteria.

Menu Items Description Halal?
Pizza Cheese and veggie pizza delivered by Pizza Pizza daily. Yes
Fries and poutine The fries are baked, so there is no issue of oil. The poutine contains vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. They are totally vegan. Yes
Veggie and Tuna sandwiches No meat except for the tuna, which is sea food and therefore does not have to be cut the way other animals must be cut. Yes
Ham and other meat sandwiches The meat is not Halal. No
Patties According to the manufacturer (Patty King), they “do not make any Halal patties, not even for schools.” No
Vegetable Patties These patties, as the name suggests, do not contain meat. Yes
Cinnamon Buns Baked goods such as these contain no animal by-products such as gelatin. Yes
Cookies The chocolate chip cookies are made with natural vanilla extract, which may contain a small amount of alcohol. Since any alcohol would be evaporated while baking, different students may have different beliefs concerning whether this violates Halal diet restrictions. Subjective
Muffins The ingredients list was unavailable at the time it was requested. Unconfirmed
Chips and drinks The chips and drinks are not made by our cafeteria workers. They are said to be Halal, but check the ingredients if in doubt. Yes
Salads Salads and the Kraft’s Rancher’s Choice salad dressing is Halal. Yes
Soup Every soup contains chicken base. This means no soup, including the vegetable soup, is Halal. No

“My best advice is if you’re not sure, don’t have it,” the supervisor recommended. He said he would speak to the cafeteria workers to make sure they are aware that the food is not Halal and not to tell the kids otherwise.

The cafeteria would not be able to operate with the increased cost of purchasing halal meats.

I asked the supervisor if the food served at Valley Park Middle School is not Halal either. He explained that their food is completely Halal, as it is supplied by the local halal grocery store, Iqbal Halal Foods. Unfortunately, Iqbal Halal Foods cannot produce enough meat to supply Marc Garneau in addition to Valley Park. He said that there aren’t enough other local Halal meat suppliers from which we can buy.

“The cafeteria wouldn’t be able to afford serving Halal meat,” says Ms. Goldenberg. She also says that she had always known the cafeteria food wasn’t Halal: “I never thought that people would think it is, so I never said anything. If people are not sure about something being Halal, they just shouldn’t eat it.” Unfortunately, we were always told the food was Halal.

Muslim students should make it their responsibility to find out what food is Halal or not in all areas of Marc Garneau CI, such as Food & Nutrition class. However, Ms. Paveling guarantees that the Grade 11 and 12 TFJ Hospitality/Culinary Arts classes are 100% Halal. They buy meat from Halal suppliers only and do not cater or serve pork or bacon.

The demographics of our community are changing and the demand of Halal meat is high. More Halal meat suppliers may appear in the future, which could decrease the price of Halal food enough for the cafeteria to consider purchasing from them. Until then, Muslims students in search of Halal meat for lunch must look elsewhere.