HOOliday Dining, Thanksgiving Meal Match offers alternatives for students staying on Grounds over break

For those who are unable to go home, programs offer students another opportunity to celebrate


The Thanksgiving Meal Match allows students staying on Grounds over the break a chance to spend the holiday with a host family. 

Courtesy U.Va. Multicultural Student Services and Student Council

Although many students return home for Thanksgiving break, others will stay on Grounds for the holiday. HOOliday Dining is a joint initiative run by the Student Council, Multicultural Student Services and the International Residential College to provide dining options for those staying on Grounds over the break. 

A catered meal will be available for current students at the International Residential College on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the break, provided by Milan Indian Restaurant, Afghan Kabob Palace and Yuan Ho Chinese restaurant, respectively. Between 50-75 students are expected to attend.

Brunch supplies will also be provided by Aramark, such as bagels and granola, and will be available during the day at the IRC. 

Joy Collins, a third-year College student and co-chair of the Diversity Engagement committee, said it was important to both give students both a sense of community and the information they need to access affordable places to eat. 

“To ensure that those students that are here in Charlottesville over break have a nice place to go and have a sense of community,” Collins said. “We put out a list of available food options both on Grounds and in Charlottesville, because I know a lot of places close during that time.”

Sandra Seidel, director of studies for the International Residential College, has been partaking in HOOliday dining for the past four years. Seidel said it is important to ensure students left on Grounds are cared for and are not left on their own.

“It is important for there to be fellowship and dining for those students who can’t go home and are not invited by their roommates to join in a family holiday celebration. It is the right thing to do!” Seidel said in an email. “It is a legacy of former Dean of Students Adriana Vito.”

Nicholas Pradhan, a fourth-year college student and co-chair of the Diversity Engagement committee, said it has so far been successful but he would like to see the venture expand in the future. 

“I hope in the future it might be able to take on a Thanksgiving flare,” Pradhan said. “All the good Thanksgiving foods just to give them a bit of an American Thanksgiving. But as of now, I think the initiative is successful in its aim to help these students and to make sure they don’t go hungry over break.”

Another venture that is offered at the Lorna Sundberg International Center is the Thanksgiving Meal Match. In contrast to the HOOliday dining, which provides a more international cuisine, the Thanksgiving Meal Match allows students staying on Grounds over the break a chance to spend the Thursday with a host family. 

The adoption program was first established in 1983 and over the past 10 years has become a more formal process. The students have to fill in an online form and are matched with a volunteer family, which could be a faculty member. Sometimes the students are invited for just the meal, whereas other times students are encouraged to join families for hikes or other activities throughout the day. 

Quynh Nguyen, the program coordinator of the Lorna Sundberg International Center, matches all the students to the host families and said the program offers a great cross-cultural experience. 

“I’m glad that we are still getting new hosts interested and more and more students signing up,” Nguyen said. “It’s just such a neat program … It’s a great way to have a really meaningful cultural exchange.”

This year around 62 students have signed up and in previous years there have been around 100 students. Many host families and students re-apply every year. Nguyen makes sure to match students with different families to ensure they are able to experience as many holiday traditions as possible.  

“We’ve had some families who’ve hosted every single year, or multiple times, because they really enjoy that experience,” Nguyen said. “It becomes their family tradition to invite an international student for the meal.”

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