April 12, 2006 --Since the start of the fall semester,
Jewish students at the University of Virginia hungry for
kosher meals can find them at all dining locations on Grounds
thanks to a newly implemented program by the University’s
Dining Services Division.
Students can choose from a selection of kosher meals in
the all-you-can-eat dining rooms around Grounds.
Kosher food is defined by traditional Jewish dietary laws.
It excludes pork and shellfish, some types of meat and
poultry, requires that animals be slaughtered in a particular
way, and prohibits the mixing of meat and milk. Most traditionally
minded, religious Jews observe the dietary laws, though
others coming from more relaxed traditions do not.
“The program has been talked about for three years,” said
U.Va. District Executive Chef Thomas Fiammetta, who spearheaded
the program’s implementation this year. “U.Va.
dining tries to fulfill as many student needs as we can
within the realm of possibilities, and the need was there.”
There are now approximately 1,200 Jewish undergraduates
and 700 graduate students at U.Va., or about 10 percent
of the undergraduate student body, according to the University
of Virginia Hillel, the local chapter of a national Jewish
student organization. Making kosher food available could
improve the University’s attractiveness to prospective
Jewish students even more, said Fiammetta, who grew up
in New York with many people of the Jewish faith.
“We were hearing from a few students that we were
losing them to nearby colleges who already had kosher dining
such as the University of Maryland, because of the lack
of such a program here at U.Va.,” he said.
Currently, kosher meals, which come from A & L Distributors
out of Baltimore, are available in “airplane-like” cardboard
trays. Students don’t need to arrange in advance
for kosher meals and can choose among several options,
including turkey, chicken, fish and roast beef. Still,
Fiammetta, who formerly worked as the General Manager of
dining services at The Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg,
would like to improve the quality and availability of the
University’s kosher meals.
“We now have a kosher commissary up and running out
of the Hillel House,” which has a kosher kitchen, Fiammetta
This program “allows students to avoid being segregated
simply because of the meals that they choose,” said
Fiammetta. “We view mealtime as a time to relax and
enjoy being with friends.” So far, about 100 students
have taken advantage of the program, but it is gearing
up to serve many more, he said.
Students who have taken advantage of the program have been
pleased with the new options. “There has been an
extremely positive response from students,” said
Fiammetta. “Students at the Hillel House have even
offered to help cook the food.”
Parents who keep kosher at home also have expressed satisfaction
with the new kosher choices, enabling their children to
keep kosher while away at school more easily. So have educators
at Jewish secondary schools.
“Just today, I received a call from a [guidance counselor
at a] Jewish boarding school [who was] checking to see
if U.Va. offers kosher meals,” said Fiammetta. “This
program is opening doors for new students to consider U.Va.
for their college education.”
In the past, University dining rooms have offered kosher choices during
Passover, but for the most part, Jewish students go to the Hillel House
for kosher meals during the High Holidays and year round on Friday evenings.
The program, which is open to the public, also will fill a community need
for kosher dining options. “The program is not just for students,” said
Fiammetta. Thanks to the new kosher food distributor in Baltimore, the
University will be able to bring in a larger variety of kosher meals. “Charlottesville
is not exactly the Mecca of kosher food,” he said.