The Interfaith Leadership Institute Embraces Attendees’ Differences

By Melissa Sersland, February 20, 2019

Planning for dietary restrictions

Accommodating faith-based dietary restrictions and food allergies is a complicated challenge when planning a menu, especially when attendees have multiple restrictions in tandem. Doidge Kilgore needs to provide options for vegetarians and attendees who are kosher, for example. How accommodating venues are with several dietary restrictions in an important factor in determining a site, Doidge Kilgore says.

Typically, food is served buffet-style, meaning that participants need clear direction on which foods they can eat. Doidge Kilgore requires all venues to include clear labeling with a list of ingredients in each dish and direction on whether the food is kosher-certified or halal. Serving utensils are kept separate to avoid cross contamination. Every meal served is modified to suit the needs of its attendees. For example, beef, pork and shellfish are never served, and any dish that typically has an alcohol-based sauce or cream is substituted.

Hosting an event in a city where you are familiar with vendors that can offer halal and kosher-certified meals is an advantage. Doidge Kilgore says for events in Chicago, she can reference the Chicago Rabbinical Council website for a list of caterers and restaurants that serve kosher-certified foods.

While the ILI’s registration form allows participants to indicate multiple dietary restrictions, planners need to be flexible since dietary information can be communicated late in the planning cycle, adding cost. When planning menus, it’s important to Doidge Kilgore that everyone’s meal options are comparable to one another and that each guest has a meal they can eat.

“I’ve had people hug me because they had not attended a conference where all their dietary restrictions are met,” she says. “It’s a way for an organization to show that they care about the people who come.”

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