Food on Wheels
Ring! Ring! I open the door to a huge package on my porch and get excited to see what’s inside. Lately, my husband has been constantly working while I’m chasing after two kids under two. I barely have time to go grocery shopping and am worried about my family getting proper, nutritious meals. Inside the box, I find fresh groceries and products that I ordered from Whole Foods only two hours ago through an online delivery service called Instacart. I was even able to get a few Saffron Road halal frozen meals, including my daughter’s favorite Chicken Tikka Masala. My dinner was ready within a few minutes!
Like Instacart, there are so many delivery services available now throughout the US. Mobile vending alone contributes around $650 million a year, and halal food is a huge contributor. Due to fast paced lifestyles, many people are not able to shop for food or cook at home. These services help deliver meals and groceries quickly to the individual’s doorstep. There are so many stores that provide these options now, such as Whole Foods, Costco, Kroger, and more. There are also options for picking up groceries outside of the store, some with special parking spots. Walmart, for example, has free pickup and an associate will come outside to delivery the groceries and help put them in the car if needed. When I was in college, food delivery services such as Grubhub and DoorDash saved the day when I was struggling to study for finals and think of how I can possibly cook a meal or even make it to the cafeteria on time. I would order from various restaurants that were around the area and open. The service was always quick and my meal hot and fresh. Food delivery services are easy to use and a great option when cooking seems impossible or it’s hard to find time to go out and eat or pick up food.
Prepping meals ahead of time is a great way to save time and energy, while also making healthy meals for the week. Meal prep kits help take care of this without the extra work. There are easy instructions of how to make the meals and it’s exciting to follow along without wasting time and ingredients. It’s perfect to control the amount of sodium, oil, sugar, and other items being put into the food, especially for those with medical conditions. Many services offer nutritionist approved organic vegetarian and vegan meals as well. With the demand of halal food in the market, we can only hope that these companies provide halal options or that we can have official halal meal delivery services in the near future.
The food truck craze has been a hit across the nation in cities and work areas. Now, it’s starting to become very popular among hungry students looking for more options in universities and colleges. At Michigan State University, there is an Eat at State ON-THE-GO Food Truck that is convenient for students who need to grab a quick bite to eat or want to relax and eat outside with friends. For students who have a dining plan, they can actually use a meal access for a combo at the Food Truck instead. This is called the Combo-X-Change, which can also be used to purchase a meal combo at the university food court, market, or store. It allows the student to pick up quick meals they can heat up or even healthy snacks in replacement of the cafeteria meal. Asim Ghani is a senior at Michigan State and chooses this option often. “I love using the combo when I am studying or just too tired to go eat in the cafeteria. I also love that they give us a halal option, as long as we notify them ahead of time,” says Ghani.
Ever heard of a “student biryani?” Najma Sultana of Teaneck, New Jersey is a full time chef and biryani expert at a small carry out halal Indian restaurant. Biryani is a one-pot meal full of rice, meat, and fragrant spices and flavors. Sultana says: “I specialize in making Hyderabadi (South Indian) style biryani and have people who are working, international students, or even tourists call and place orders for it to be delivered to them. I had many hungry students from Fairleigh Dickinson University, which is right next to the restaurant, come asking for any special deals on biryani. So I started one called student biryani, which is a smaller portion but has bread and chutney with a drink included, and is also affordable. This is the most popular item and our delivery man brings it right to their dorm or apartment.”
Urusa Naqui started a small catering business from her home called S & S Catering and delivers to the metro Detroit area in Michigan. Surprisingly, most of her customers are employees at General Motors. She mainly cooks halal Indian and Pakistani cuisine, but also takes requests for other food items. “I love seeing the smiles and excitement on my customers’ faces when they receive home cooked meals they may not get or crave. Especially for those who have left families back home and are missing them a lot. It’s a beautiful feeling,” says Naqui.
Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of God] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, God is Knowing of it. [Quran 3:92]
How can we help those who are less fortunate to make a proper living for themselves? Through the Dallas Refugee Services, I was able to locate women refugees who are making home cooked food with donated ingredients to sell to the community. Many of these refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq and have left much of their life back home. As Ramadan approaches, some women are offering larger catering services. This is perfect for people who want to do iftar parties at home or are not able to cook at times during the blessed month. They offer Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, which include vegetarian and gluten free options. The customer can make special requests as well. This is a great opportunity to give back to those who need a stable income and better life for their families.
Vending machines have always been convenient and a low cost option for accessing various food and drinks. However, with the rise of obesity among both adults and children, regulations have been changing with what vending machines should offer. For example, in Glendale, California, the City Council voted on replacing unhealthy snacks in vending machines on city property, such as chips and candy with nuts, with vegetables and fruits. This would help tackle obesity in children, especially since in Los Angeles County over 20% of children are obese.
The concept of food on wheels has changed drastically over the years. With the availability of online ordering and social media, it is much easier to access healthy and halal foods. Home delivery services are taking note of trends in society and competition has increased to provide the best service and food quality. Busy lifestyles are causing demand for home cooked meals and easily accessible foods. The growing population of Muslims and non-Muslims choosing halal-certified food and products will hopefully let us see more halal and healthy options in the future.
Afreen Fatima Syed is a full time mom and public health professional living in Coppell, Texas. She has a passion for nutrition and health, and loves to explore different cuisines.