Colleges extend dining hall hours, prep special to-go meals for Ramadan

Staffs work closely with Muslim students to create dining options in sync with Ramadan traditions and schedules.
Halal chicken, fried rice, coconut curry
Grilled Marinated Halal Chicken, Pineapple Fried Rice and Malaysian Coconut Curry/photo courtesy of Wash U

Ramadan begins Saturday and continues until May 1. This is a sacred season for Muslims around the world—a period that calls for special prayers, fasting during daylight hours and other rituals.

“We had to plan for a longer time period this year,” says Claire Conroy, special events coordinator in dining with Washington University in St. Louis. “Ramadan shifted to the last month of the semester, while usually, only the first two weeks fall within our school calendar.”

To make sure the Muslim students have access to food throughout the month, Wash U is keeping the dining hall open an extra hour, until 10 p.m., and providing more prepackaged halal meals at retail locations.

“We worked closely with the Muslim Student Association—which numbers 100-plus students— to better understand their needs and food traditions,” says Conroy. “Items like mango juice, dates, rice, halal meat and vegetables are some of the requests.”

During the pandemic, Ramadan meals were all packaged to go, and those options will still be available this time around. “We’re increasing those this year for students who wait until midnight to eat or want to grab something for breakfast the night before,” says Conroy.

But for those who prefer to dine in, the halal station will be operating for the extended hour. On offer at WUrld Fusion are a selection of Asian and Middle Eastern dishes, as well as college student favorites, all certified halal.

Yale University in New Haven, Conn., has a dedicated dining hall where students enrolled in a meal plan can pick up boxed meals for Iftar (dinner after sundown) and Suhoor (breakfast before sunrise) every day during Ramadan. The breakfast boxes must be picked up at dinnertime.

That meals-to-go plan is similar to Yale’s 2021 Ramadan program, but last year, delivery, not pickup, was the order of the day. Amid pandemic concerns, Yale Hospitality worked with the director of Muslim Life on campus to identify where Muslim students lived, then delivered dinners and breakfasts to each residential building.

This April, with COVID restrictions lifted, the university is also hosting Friday Community Iftars on four evenings during the month. These are open to the entire student body.

At Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., the first week of Ramadan coincides with Spring Break, but Muslim students and faculty who stay on campus will be taken care of. Two of the dining venues will have takeout containers and pre-fast meal boxes available, with hot halal meals on request for those dining in.

After Spring Break, seven dining halls will have halal meals to go and another will offer dine-in customers an evening meal. Like Wash U, Cornell is keeping some locations open later, until 9 p.m.


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