Alcohol, food sales should include kosher products

posted in: 2015-2016, October 2015, Opinion | 0
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jake headshot colorUniversity and Jewish students could both benefit from new options

By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
@JakeatUMD

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When I stepped onto the University of Maryland campus about a year ago, I felt like a legacy. After all, three of my siblings attended UMD and received their undergraduate degrees here, and I was ready to do the same. Even though I applied to 10 other schools, I was 100 percent positive this was the school for me. I wanted to be in a place where I felt at home – where Jewish life surrounded me. And what better place is there than UMD?

According to Hillel International, there are about 5,800 Jewish students on campus, which is 21 percent of the school. The university has made it a point to accommodate us in many ways – by being incredibly lenient on missed days for holidays, planning events to cater to Jewish students and even letting organizations such as Chabad and Hillel parade around campus to spread the Jewish spirit to other students on holidays such as Simchat Torah and Shavuot.

However, there is more to be done. Despite the huge Jewish population on campus, the Xfinity Center and Byrd Stadium, homes to the biggest on-campus attractions, don’t serve kosher food. Never mind that hundreds of students cannot buy food at games, it’s a disadvantage for the university as well. While most football games are on Shabbat, basketball games would make a perfect venue for kosher food, as many Jews attend every game.

While the upfront costs might be expensive for adding new concessions with kosher food at university sporting events, UMD is missing out on an entire market segment that could increase its profits from games tremendously. Due to recent budget cuts, the university needs all the funding it can get, so why let an opportunity that would likely prove profitable in the long run go to waste?

 

Football fans at the Michigan game line up at a Byrd Stadium beer stand, which includes a sign saying "Drink Responsibly," to buy alcohol while an event staff member fills cups from a tap. Jacqueline Hyman/Mitzpeh
Football fans at the Michigan game line up at a Byrd Stadium beer stand, which includes a sign saying “Drink Responsibly,” to buy alcohol while an event staff member fills cups from a tap. Jacqueline Hyman/Mitzpeh

In addition to the absence of kosher food at games, a new lack of kosher alcohol has come into play. For the 2015-2016 academic year, this university has begun selling alcohol at the Xfinity Center and Byrd Stadium in order to curb the dangers of binge drinking within the student population.

While it is simply a trial run, the university has essentially closed off a new category of concessions from the Jewish population. Will they consider selling kosher alcohol and kosher food in the future? It would certainly maximize their profits within the observant Jewish community and make perfect sense given the recent addition of alcohol sales at games.

I might be talking from a business perspective here (given that I am an international business major), but the facts remain the same; both the Jewish student population on campus and UMD are suffering losses from the lack of kosher concession stands at games. I came to this university expecting to experience Jewish life like no other, and while the opportunities for Jews on campus are great, this disappoints me.

While UMD implements programs to increase its profits at games by selling beer to the student population, it continues to ignore a persistent need. To me, that is irresponsible, disappointing and counterintuitive to the needs of the university and Jewish students alike.

Jake is a sophomore international business major. He can be reached at jakebaum1@gmail.com.

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