Opinion | Caf should consider students practicing fasting, Lenten traditions
Practicing Catholics and other fasting Bethel students lack access to pescatarian meal options.
For many religions around the world, Lent is an important season filled with traditions that take place during a 40-day period from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. Catholics, for example, are taught to prepare for the Lord’s Resurrection by seeking the Lord through prayer, giving alms (time, donations, services, etc.) and practicing self-control by fasting for 40 days.
As a child, I attended a Catholic school that emphasized the importance of fasting during Lent. This could range from abstaining from certain habits to giving up your favorite foods. For example, my go-tos are giving up soda or cutting out gum — which, I will admit, is very hard for an avid gum chewer, like myself.
One aspect of Lent that stands out the most to me, in particular, is that Catholics who practice Lent are to refrain from eating meat on Fridays — excluding fish. The symbolism behind this is that because Jesus died on a Friday — Good Friday, to be exact — we are to refrain from eating any “flesh” (meat) on Fridays, in his honor.
Now, one may be asking, “how does this relate to Bethel?” If you examine the cafeteria menu during Lent, meat dishes are the primary courses for both lunch and dinner. Taking this week’s menu for example, the only dishes I can actually eat on Friday are rice and nachos. Though these are still incredibly yummy dishes, it is not enough to sustain me throughout the day.
While I understand that Bethel College is a Mennonite-affiliated institution that does not observe these Lenten traditions, there is a good portion of Catholics attending who do observe these practices. Additionally, I understand that multiple factors go into deciding what goes on the menu, such as cafeteria allowance per student and other students’ feedback.
It is rare to see some type of pescatarian option on the menu, let alone on a Friday during Lent. I am not suggesting that the entire menu should consist of seafood options, but having a simple food choice for those refraining from meat intake would be appreciated.
Taking the issue one step further, Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, also coincides with a portion of Lent which involves fasting. Some West Coast schools back home have implemented special dates and time frames for students who practice Ramadan.
It’s an interesting topic to think about that I believe Bethel could benefit from, to the end of keeping their doors open to diversity and inclusion.
Thank you, Ari, for bringing this issue to light. An Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with a permanent full time professional director would help the college with all similar issues. The TRHT team and BCARC have proposed a plan that includes this position as well as Faculty and Student DEI fellows who would work with every office and department to target inequity and address it. Maybe The Collegian could do an article on this ongoing effort and the roadblocks in the way.
To be a place that invites all to participate in it, Bethel needs to be welcoming in every way possible. This is a small thing that could mean a lot! Time to make it standard policy for the College to help students feel free to observe their traditions and celebrations of faith!