May 6 marked the beginning of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims practice their faith by fasting between the hours of sunrise and sunset for 30 days. This commitment can pose a challenge for IWK staff and patients who choose to pass on their regular meals.
This year, the IWK Food Services team is hoping to better support those observing Ramadan by creating a Ramadan menu for Muslims in the health centre. With traditional meal offerings, the team hopes to bring a bit of at-home comfort into the hospital during this special time.
“I think this is fantastic,” says Khlood Aly, food service supervisor and clinical dietary technician at the IWK. “People usually go all-out during Ramadan, having ’feast‘ type meals. The entire month you’re either eating at someone’s house or having people coming to your home.”
“With this menu, patients are still able to share a meal with their loved ones and experience Ramadan while they’re here. Guests can order the same meals as the patients, so families are able to sit down and eat together, much like they normally would at home.”
As a follower of the Muslim faith and an observer of Ramadan, Aly collaborated with her colleagues in Food Services to create a traditional menu. The team worked together to better meet the growing need for Halal food options in the health centre.
Andrea Connell, manager, Business Development & Food Services, first recognized a need for this type of service last year, when consulting with a Muslim family in the Pediatric Medical Unit (PMU) of the IWK.
“This family was buying a lot of food items outside of the hospital for Ramadan from a specific grocery store to make sure it was Halal,” says Connell. “I was really bothered that they had to go every week to buy these items while they had two patients in care.”
Since then, the Heart & Hearth Cafe has been stocking more Halal items and, this year, is proud to offer a Ramadan menu of traditional foods.
Production coordinator, Michelle Higgins, along with dietetic intern, Victoria River-Bowerman, worked with Aly to develop a menu that would help make observing Ramadan in the health centre more accessible.
“Patients are not required to fast, but those who choose to are only eating one meal a day,” says Aly. “The patients and staff who are fasting wouldn’t be eating breakfast or lunch, just one meal at 8:30 p.m. They can also wake up before the sunrises to eat before they start their fast again, which is around 3:30 to 4:30 a.m.”
It’s important to be mindful of this sacred, and busy, time for anyone observing Ramadan. Being supportive and understanding of colleagues or patients practices’ is a big way that anyone can contribute. Aly notes that not having to worry about brining Halal food to work is a great help in being able to focus on the purpose and celebration of Ramadan.
Anyone in the IWK is able to take advantage of this menu, including staff and guests of patients.