Muslim Student Association, UMW Dining, JFMC collaborate on Ramadan dining options4 min read
by ELI KEITH
Students at UMW observing Ramadan, which began the evening of March 22 and ends the evening of April 20, have had access to dining options that allow them both to fast according to the rules of the holy month and have more on-campus dining options than in prior years. The Muslim Student Association worked with the James Farmer Multicultural Center and UMW Dining to create these additional options.
“As co-presidents of MSA, Iqra and I are excited to work with the school to provide better dining options for the Muslims on campus,” said junior computer science major Tubba Noor, co-president of the Muslim Student Association. “We are pushing for better dining options for those participating in Ramadan. I think having the Grubhub options is better than no options. I hope to see the school become more inclusive of this holy month in future years.”
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic year when Muslims fast during daylight hours, eating one meal, suhoor, before sunrise and one meal, iftar, after sunset. The month is meant to be dedicated to spiritual rejuvenation, with the act of fasting being “a means of gaining self-discipline, strengthening one’s willpower, and empathizing with those less fortunate,” according to the Muslim Student Association.
The additional dining options for students who fast during Ramadan are a response to the dining hours at the Top of the CRUC, which opens at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. on weekends and closes at either 7 or 8 p.m. every day. With the sun rising at around 6:45 a.m. and setting around 7:30 p.m. these days, the dining hall’s regular hours are not in line with the schedule of suhoor and iftar. On-campus students who wish to break their fast, therefore, must go to other dining locations on campus or eat elsewhere. While the Top of the CRUC provides all-you-can-eat dining for one meal swipe, the university’s cafes and Eagle’s Nest restaurants provide a limited amount of food for a set cost.
Students can go to the dining hall during regular dinner hours to take their food to go, allowing them to browse the stations and choose items in person. They may also order food on Grubhub and pick up their order from the cashier’s station 30 minutes prior to the dining hall closing.
This is not the first year that UMW Dining has provided options for students fasting for Ramadan. According to UMW Dining Marketing Manager Rose Benedict, this year’s options are “pretty similar to what we’ve done in previous years. The primary difference is the new Ramadan Re-heatable Breakfast option on Grubhub and the addition of the single date, since it is tradition to break the daily fast with a date.”
The cold breakfast option includes items such as hard-boiled eggs, yogurt parfaits, cold cereals or oatmeal packets as the main components, along with some side items and beverages. Newly introduced this year, however, is a reheatable breakfast, which is a cooked breakfast that is stored cold so it can be reheated the following morning. Each meal includes a single date, a breakfast potato, a non-pork breakfast meat or veggie sausage, fruit, pastry and a beverage. This new option also includes a different main breakfast course each week, such as scrambled eggs, French toast sticks or pancakes.
“We try to consult with student groups and/or the leaders of the James Farmer Multicultural Center,” said Benedict. “Executive Chef David Roeder, Dining Director Lance Mailem, and I met with JFMC Director Marion Sanford and leaders of the Muslim Student Association in mid-February to determine the type of dining options needed by students who observe Ramadan.”
Senior psychology major Foziya Mohammed said, “I was expecting to get my own food because I was aware I was going to a PWI,” referring to a predominantly white institution. “I knew the school would most likely not be aware of Ramadan. Last year the dining hall closed early so I had to eat from Panera a lot during Ramadan. I am glad we are pushing for more inclusive options.”
UMW Dining created the option to order through Grubhub so that students would not have to walk through the dining hall while fasting.
“The advantage of this option is that it is easier for the students to maintain their fast if they don’t have to walk through the dining room past all the food in order to get a meal that they can only eat later,” said Benedict. “The food choices are slightly more limited on Grubhub, but there is still a nice variety of selections, including pastas, burgers, a vegan entree, salads, and the Simple Servings meal.”
However, not all students feel that the quantities are sufficient.
“A lot of people I know have opted to eat off-campus, since they know that they’ll be able to get a reasonable sized meal,” said freshman political science and philosophy: pre-law double major Tonia Attie, a member of the Muslim Student Association. “I appreciate that Sodexo is at least offering this to students, and appreciate our MSA for working as hard as they are, but this is very much the bare minimum and the system could be done better.”
Being a commuter student, Attie has not utilized the options provided by UMW Dining.
“I currently have never used it, nor do I plan on using it,” said Attie.
These dining options will last until April 20, which marks Eid al-Fitr, or the end of Ramadan. Eid is one of two official Muslim holidays and the concluding festival of Ramadan.