Food Day promotes sustainability at VCU

Students, experts and activists gathered to promote healthy, sustainable dining and to learn how to eat well on a budget during three days’ worth of events for National Food Day.

Representatives from VCU, the Fulton Hill area and other organizations working across the city met on Oct. 22 to discuss access to healthy food in Richmond in a “Food Justice in Our Community” panel discussion.

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VCU Qatar student compares campuses after visit to Richmond

After seeing VCU’s Monroe Park Campus, VCU Qatar student Marianne Bermejo noted that there are vast differences between VCU’s Richmond campuses and her home campus at VCU Qatar.

VCU Qatar is made up of around 250 students, she said. This is a far cry from the Richmond campuses that enroll over 31,000 students. Bermejo explained that all majors are housed in a single building at the VCU Qatar campus, which is located in an area known as Education City in the country’s capital of Doha. Education City houses satellite campuses from a number of American universities, including Georgetown, Texas A&M and Carnegie Mellon.

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VCU Swipes Student Meals

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 | Filed under News | Posted by News Editor

VCU swipes student meals

Contributing Writer Alix Hines

After five months of waiting for the reintroduction of the round-shaped breakfast food to VCU’s meal plan, students who were originally told Einstein Bros. Bagels would open in the fall of 2010 were still thrilled despite the delay.

With the opening of the breakfast food chain, students once again anticipated having a delicious bagel breakfast courtesy of the Meal Exchange Program.

Photo by Alix Hines
Photo by Alix Hines

“Alpine used to swipe in the morning when it’s breakfast time,” said sophomore Ekta Patel. “I’d rather have swipes during breakfast time than during dinner time.”

However, Einstein Bros. Bagels do not accept swipes in the morning. Dining Sales and Services manager Tamara Highsmith explained that swipes are not offered at Einstein Bros. Bagels in the morning to allow customers paying with cash or credit to purchase a bagel at that time as well.

Highsmith added that only 25 percent of VCU students have a meal plan, so Dining Services must find a way to meet the needs of all students.

“We’ve seen it at Quiznos and we see it at Nao and Zen,” said Dan McDonald, assistant director of Business Services. “During those swipe periods, the line gets so long that if I’m one of those 75 percent of folks that want to make a purchase, I can’t or I won’t because the line is so long.”

Although swipes encourage more people with meal plans to participate in the Meal Exchange Program, students with cash or meal plans flock to VCU dining areas at fairly normal meal times, and students with meal plans are demanding more choices.

For breakfast, VCU offers the Meal Exchange Program at Subway and Pizza Hut. Shafer also offers breakfast, but many students prefer the ease of grabbing breakfast at Market 810-2-Go.

“I think the food at Einstein is much better than Subway breakfast,” said freshman Janie Milliron. “It’s just personal preference I would say.”

The prospects of adding Einstein Bagels to the morning Meal Exchange Program may be grim, but the future of breakfast at VCU is a bright one.

“We are looking at whether it would be too competitive with Einstein to bring a bagel product into Market 810-2-Go that students could use a block at that location,” Highsmith said. “I can’t tell you if it’s going to happen or not, but we’re looking into it.”

VCU also plans to add more breakfast options for students next semester with IHOP, Raising Cane’s and Croutons. Each of these food outlets will be included in the Meal Exchange Program that allows students to use swipes at certain times of the day.

As for the future plans for VCU dining, Highsmith said, “We are just encouraged and excited about the upcoming locations and the increased flexibility for students to continue to use dining plans in our new locations.”

Giving Thanks Around the World

Thanksgiving is a time when many VCU students travel home to be with their families to celebrate the blessings they have received throughout the year, but for International students this may be lonely time because they are far from their own families. Luckily, every year VCU places international students in the homes of area residents, faculty and students for the holiday. The program is called, “Share Thanksgiving Day with an International Student.”

“About 75 percent of the international students who study in the United States never enter an American home during their entire time of study here. We want to give students opportunities to be in American homes to meet Americans in the community. Our hope is that they will develop friendships, learn more about American culture,” says Pam Haney, the global student services coordinator at VCU.

“Share Thanksgiving Day with an International Student” gives International students a chance to not only learn about American culture, but to share their own culture with their hosts as well. Haney adds, “Most international students come here alone. They don’t know anyone. They have left their family and friends far behind so it can be a lonely time for them being without those support networks they have in their home countries.”

Ahmad Altarifi, an International grad student from Jordan, will enjoy his third Thanksgiving in an American home this year. He has attended Thanksgiving in two different households, and he remains in close contact with the families he meets each year.

“The first time when I went, I didn’t know the story or tradition behind this holiday. I was excited because it would be a totally new experience for me,” he explains.

Altarifi has not been back to Jordan in two years. He says that meeting with other families, sharing stories and problems has made it easier for him to live here without his family. By visiting an American home, he says that he is becoming more familiar with American culture and he is able to teach his host families a little more about his own culture.

Last year, Altarifi says, Thanksgiving fell on the same day as an important holiday in Jordan called Eid al-Adha. This is a time of celebration in Jordan where families visit one another bearing gifts. There is also a traditional slaughtering of sheep on that day, and the meat is then distributed to the poor as well as friends and family members. This year the holiday will fall on November 16.

According to Altarifi the best part of the experience is, “You (have) found somebody to trust and people that trust you.” He says he would encourage other international students to participate in this program to:

• Learn about American culture

• Form new Relationships

• Teach Americans about traditions in other countries

Altarifi points out, “There is not that big of a difference.” Taking a day to give thanks goes beyond American culture, it is deeply rooted in many cultures, and it is simply a matter of taking time to open our eyes to the world. For more information regarding “Share Thanksgiving Day with an International Student,” contact Pam Haney at or call 828-8309 by November 15.