Fasting from sunrise to sundown during the month of Ramadan is hard enough. For students who live on campus and rely on the dining halls for meals, eating a nutritious, filling meal before the sun comes up is even harder.

Now, a new initiative from UMD Dining Services is offering Muslim students the option to pick up a prepared meal every evening and eat it whenever is convenient for them.

The effort comes out of a discussion started last month by several members of the Muslim Students’ Association about what students on dining plans were going to do for Ramadan, which began on May 5—earlier than usual, based on the lunar calendar.

With the sustainability-minded elimination of to-go containers from dining halls—and operating hours that begin well after sunrise, when fasting has already started—the students were concerned that those living on campus would have very limited food options.

Several students reached out to Dining Services, emphasizing how important it was that students “get some sort of protein source, some kind of healthy fat, and some slow-burning carbohydrates and something high in fiber so they’re able to get through the day and feel energized,” said Laila Abujuma ’19, who studies nutritional sciences.

Dining Services is now offering a program similar to their sick meals program, in which a meal can be picked up and taken out of the dining halls when the student is ill. For Ramadan, every morning through May 21 interested students fill out an online form requesting a meal, and then come pick it up from a dining hall between 8 p.m. and midnight. Students can keep the meal in their personal refrigerators until they’re ready to eat it. 

Between 35 and 40 students have been picking up meals each night, said Bart Hipple, assistant director of Dining Services. “We’re very pleased that we were able to put something together that seems to be hitting the mark for this many students.”

Several of the students from the Muslim Students Association offered input on the menu, which includes items like grilled chicken, kabobs, hard-boiled eggs and fruit. “I was pretty pleased” with the final results, said Abujuma. “I thought they were meals that were actually going to leave someone feeling satiated and able to run smoothly throughout the day.”

Ramadan-observing students are glad for the accommodation. “UMD is actually showing that they care about Muslim students and our well-being, so it meant a lot,” said Abujuma.