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New UF dining hall at Hillel offers kosher meal plans

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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 12:00 am

Students will soon have the option of keeping kosher when they sign up for meal plans through UF Gator Dining Services.

A newly designated UF kosher dining hall, The Olam: Tastes from Around the World, opened at Hillel as summer B classes began on June 30.

Many Jewish people choose to keep kosher by following strict dietary guidelines that prohibit the consumption of certain foods for religious reasons.

Keith Dvorchik, Hillel's executive director, estimates that there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Jewish students at UF.

Avie Friederwitzer, the owner of All Star Caterers, which is managing the new dining hall, hopes to bring hundreds to Hillel daily through a partnership with Gator Dining to offer kosher meal plans to UF students.

Students will not be able to use declining balance at The Olam, but they can buy a meal plan for the upcoming fall and spring semesters through Gator Dining or Hillel.

The Gator Dining kosher meal plans are not available during summer B, but plans can be purchased through All Star Caterers.

A block of 10 lunches costs $70, and a block of 10 dinners costs $90.

More than 140 people came for the $5, all-you-can-eat lunch on June 26 because of a marketing blitz aimed at the community and UF faculty. But only five people came to lunch on Monday, the first day of the dining hall's official opening.

Gator Dining will offer three kosher options for students beginning in the fall: the Kosher 5, the Kosher 10 and a "kosher upgrade."

The Kosher 5 will cost $720 a semester and includes five lunches or dinners a week. The Kosher 10, which includes 10 meals a week, will cost $1,360 a semester. This is comparable to a non-kosher UF meal plan that costs $1,450 a semester for 10 meals a week.

Though the kosher plan seems cheaper, it doesn't include Flex Bucks, which allow students to eat at different dining halls and restaurants on campus. This means kosher meal plan students can only use the plan to eat at The Olam.

Students can also add a kosher upgrade to any UF meal plan for $425 a semester and receive an additional 40 meals.

Hillel and the Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student & Community Center have been the only options for observant Jews in the past.

Friederwitzer said prepackaged kosher sandwiches and soups will be available in on-campus convenience stores in the fall to provide easier access to kosher food.

All Star Caterers has begun promoting kosher meal plans to UF students at Preview and on the Gator Dining Web site, said Jill Rodriguez, a Gator Dining representative.

Friederwitzer is trying to emulate the programs at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland, where kosher meals are offered at each university's dining halls.

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