The holiday season is for spending quality time with loved ones, reflecting on all that you’re thankful for and, typically, eating the best meals you’ll have all year. So, what’s on the menu for students who remain on campus over Thanksgiving or winter break?
During Thanksgiving and winter break, normal operations around campus are reduced or stopped entirely. This includes dining services, which can present issues for students who may not be equipped to access, purchase, store or prepare food over breaks.
The restricted hours of operation for dining services on campus include periods during both breaks when no dining locations are open; between Nov. 28-30 during Thanksgiving break and Dec. 21-Jan.1 during winter break.
To offset the lack of options during these times, several university offices and programs have set up resources for students to take advantage of to give them access to food.
The Office of Common Ground, Office of the Chaplaincy and University Dining Services will be co-hosting a Thanksgiving dinner at The Cellar on Nov. 27 at 5 p.m. Shani Buchholz, the administrative coordinator of Common Ground, said the dinner had been running for seven years and received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
“People really appreciate it,” Buchholz said. “We get students, obviously, but we also get staff and some faculty who come out to enjoy the dinner with students. But the students are so appreciative of it, and we’ve seen the numbers increase quite dramatically over the years; last year we were expecting 70 and wound up with over 100.”
In addition to Thanksgiving dinner, Common Ground is offering several other programs over Thanksgiving break where students can find food or access resources to make their own. These events include a pizza party and the chance to receive a bagged breakfast.
Junior Sam Burns stayed on campus over Thanksgiving break last year and plans to stay again this semester, and said that the resources she had access to last year had been very helpful. Burns said she was also appreciative of these recent additions.
“Now they also will have the Westhampton kitchen open, which is really good,” Burns said. “Because I feel like before, the money you had was just for like, mac and cheese packets or something. So that’s a good new program they’re trying.
“That’s also pretty beneficial for me as an RA, because I have the opportunity to work during Thanksgiving. I’ll be on-call to like, open the kitchen for people, and I think I’ll also be monitoring how many people are coming. And that’s part of a new program they’re doing also for winter break, that gives an opportunity for any RAs that are staying campus for breaks to sign up for shifts.”
Having the Westhampton Center kitchen open for students to prepare their own meals over breaks is a new resource available for students, alongside the placement of microwaves in Whitehurst and the Westhampton Center.
In the past, students have been able to receive gift cards from UR to help pay for food if they were remaining on campus. Since the recent changes in university policy prohibiting offices and departments from giving students gift cards, the Richmond and Westhampton College Deans’ Offices have introduced a different method of compensating students.
By filling out the Student Support Form provided by the Office of Financial Aid or by emailing Mia Reinoso Genoni, dean of Westhampton College, or Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College, students who qualify for financial aid can request funding from the deans’ offices to help offset the cost of food. Genoni said she had been a proponent of introducing new options for food and community for students who stay on campus during breaks.
Genoni said that students who are unsure about their eligibility for financial help should contact the college deans since every student's needs are addressed according to the specifics of each situation.
“Don’t over-worry about your financial situation,” Genoni said. “Sometimes requests that might seem possible aren’t, and sometimes requests that might not seem possible are. That’s why I tell students not to over-worry trying to figure it out themselves, and just ask. We look at the requests on a case-by-case basis, and we want to provide for those who need it, when we can.”
University-provided transportation is also affected by restricted hours of operation during breaks, which can impede students without their own means of transportation from getting food off-campus.
Emily Phaup, the transportation coordinator of the Office of Parking and Transportation Services, said that shuttle service was limited over Thanksgiving and winter breaks, but students would still be able to rent Zipcars during those times.
A shuttle to the Village Shopping Center and Short Pump Town Center will be provided by the Office of International Education, in cooperation with UR Transportation, on Black Friday, Nov. 29. Students may use the shuttle to buy food at these locations as well as shop.
Genoni said that the Richmond and Westhampton College deans, Dining Services, the Office of Residence Life and Undergraduate Student Housing, Common Ground, the University Police Department, UR Transportation and the chaplaincy all worked together to listen to the needs of students and provide them with more options.
Genoni and Buchholz both said that, while making sure students had access to food over breaks was important, they were also very passionate about creating a welcoming and inclusionary environment for those who remain on campus.
“We want to make sure that you can eat over break, but we also want to make sure you have a sense of community while you’re here,” Genoni said.
Contact news writer Lauren Guzman at firstname.lastname@example.org.