MAKING IT IN AMERICA


By way of the New York City subway, off the Jamaica train station at the end of the line, lies a small college campus and within that small campus is a tiny room with a very big idea. An idea to introduce halal food to the masses in a tech friendly and tasty way.

This idea was created by a group of five undergraduates, four from the food and nutrition department and one from the computer science department. This group has been quietly meeting during the hot summer months coding, tasting and making in preparation to launch their first app.

In response to the desire to build The Tech Incubator at Queens College (TIQC) launched SIMMER, a tech and food collaboration uniting students from multidisciplinary fields to create food and health related technologies. SIMMER began app development of its first food and tech app titled, Hungry4Halal. This mobile application connects users with halal cuisine through recipes, restaurant mapping and engaging video content.

These enterprising students from The City University of New York are: Afroja Mustofa, a new mother, wife and senior in the Department of Family, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences program, balancing her time creating the app with her job, family and studies. Christopher Almodovar, a Navy veteran with a desire to reinvent himself and an uncanny ability to peacefully keep the team on track during the chaotic development process. Sharmin Joya, another woman on the team, is fashion forward and has been scouring the five boroughs adding halal friendly restaurants to the mapping section of the app. Kashfi Fahim, the lone Computer Science major with a background in project management who has a desire to connect food and technology. Rumana Rumman, the center for the group. She has been curating and creating hundreds of halal recipes, testing and sorting with a passionate precision.

This diverse group is led by two vanguard professors: one from Information Technology Department with Chinese ethnicity and the other from the Nutrition Sciences with a family tree stemming from Italy. This unlikely group may have bitten off more than they could chew by learning to build a functional app, familiarizing themselves with code development, gather and create all app content, market and launch the application— all in one entrepreneurial filled summer! However, somehow, they did it. Now in the post-launch stage without missing a beat they joyfully plan the 2.0 version.

“I WANT MY DAUGHTER TO SEE THAT OUR CUISINE HAS VALUE AND IS LOVED BY MILLIONS. IN A TIME WHEN MUSLIMS ARE NOT ALWAYS PORTRAYED IN THE MOST POSITIVE LIGHT, THIS APP INTRODUCES USERS TO A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF CUISINE IN AN OPTIMISTIC AND DELICIOUS WAY.”

For the non-halal readers, including myself, here is a quick low down on what is halal food. Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted. In reference to food, it is the Muslim dietary standard. A few major points are you are only allowed to eat meat that has been prepared in a specific humane way. Additionally, a few foods are off the table like pork, alcohol, lard and blood not that this is a big one these days. Overall, halal food is about understanding community, culture and culinary.

“I am really proud to be a part of this project and think it’s needed in the halal community. I want my daughter to see that our cuisine has value and is loved by millions. In a time when Muslims are not always portrayed in the most positive light, this app introduces users to a whole new world of cuisine in an optimistic and delicious way,” says Afroja.

The app is free and available for download on iOS.