Lehigh Sophomore Ethan Amershek cooks on Feb. 12 in the communal kitchen of Maida house. With the upper and lower court being closed, students cook due to the limited dining options. (Adeline Horan/B&W Staff)

Eating with dietary restrictions at Lehigh


Dietary restrictions often require specific ingredients, appliances and food preparation processes. While Lehigh aims to accommodate student dietary needs, some students feel they fall short at providing consistent, specialized food options.

According to Lehigh Dining, residential dining halls and select retail locations offer six “dietary icons” — mindful, local, vegan, vegetarian, plant-based and non-gluten ingredients — to help students find dishes that will suit their individual dietary needs.

Zachary Weiser, ‘25, was raised in a Jewish household and only eats kosher food. He said he is disappointed by the limited options available to him at Lehigh because of his dietary restrictions.

“(The university) tries to accommodate everyone’s needs but (they) don’t really ask enough questions to figure out the right combinations of food for everyone,” Weiser said. 

He said his first experience at Rathbone Dining Hall was underwhelming, and he feels he is one of many dietary-restricted students who struggle to find food they can eat on Lehigh’s campus. 

Rathbone’s executive chef John Hynes said Rathbone has always had variety.

However, he said it would be costly to have kosher options since it would require a separate prepping area to keep the meat away from the dairy.

Ethan Lavi, ‘25, was also raised kosher and thinks Lehigh’s required meal plans are too expensive, especially for the limited options provided.

Weiser said buying his own groceries is a cheaper option than the meal plan, but being able to eat at the dining hall would be much easier.

Arushi Kende, ‘26, is vegetarian every day except Sunday when she eats vegan. Her diet choices are ethical and religious.  

She said the options at the dining hall are limited and not consistent, especially with vegan protein options. In the fall 2022 semester, she had 170 of her original 200 meal swipes left because she hardly went to the dining hall. 

“They are starving their students,” Kende said. “My day is heavily impacted by my lack of nutrition.” 

Kende said she goes home or to the grocery store every week to get food because she lacks options.

Ahmed Noureldaem, ‘24, only eats meat prepared halal, a diet he has had his entire life — just as Weiser and Kende have eaten kosher and vegetarian/vegan, respectively, their whole lives.  

Noureldaem said he stopped practicing Taekwondo during Ramadan his sophomore year because his nutrition levels were low.

Now a junior, Noureldaem does not have a meal plan and gets his food off-campus. While cheaper than the meal plan, he said grocery shopping is inconvenient due to the distance he lives from grocery stores. 

Halal and kosher options are not available daily the way vegan, vegetarian and allergen-free options are. According to Lehigh Dining, “Halal and kosher options are dependent on sourcing and (the school’s) current and available conditions.”

“If it was up to me, I would not have a meal plan at all,” Lavi said due to the lack of communication about what food is kosher and the absence of a dedicated kosher section. 

Evan Rehrig, marketing manager of Rathbone, said creating a strictly kosher section is something they are looking to establish. However, it would not be available until 2025. 

For students with documented medical conditions who feel their nutritional needs are not being met through their meal plan, it is possible to apply for a meal plan exemption by meeting with the on-campus dietitian, Keri Lasky. 

According to Lehigh Dining, exemption/accommodation requests are reviewed jointly by Disability Services, Residence Life, Lehigh Dining Services and other personnel who may be able to assist in the accommodation.

Tyler Katz, the engagement and program associate for Jewish Student Life, said Lehigh must do a better job accommodating dietary restrictions.

“Whether it’s religious dietary restrictions like kosher or halal or vegetarianism or whether it’s dietary reasons for non-religious reasons, whether it’s allergies or it’s gluten intolerance, or also just for personal reasons,” Katz said.

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1 Comment

  1. This was so good! I have a friend who goes to Lehigh and has also been having problems with the options at the dining hall. I’m glad it’s getting more recognition and hopefully improves as soon as possible.

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