By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Nurses at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital are piloting a new program this spring, providing dates to patients and their families during the month of Ramadan.

According to hospital officials breaking daily fasts with dates, which are the fruit of the date palm tree, is a Ramadan tradition. The dates will be distributed throughout the day at Masonic Children’s Hospital, so that they’re available for Muslim families to eat at sundown, helping patients feel more comfortable at the hospital.

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Each bag of dates will be accompanied by an educational card, crafted with the help of Imam Tamer Abdelaziz, M Health Fairview’s lead Muslim chaplain.

The hospital says the new initiative is led by Facilitators of Unity and Strengtheners of Inclusivity of Nursing, an M Health Fairview employee resource group formed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder last spring.

Jessica Aye-Darko, a pediatric nurse and member of FUSION, hopes that date distribution provides meaningful recognition for Muslim patients, as well as an educational opportunity for staff – especially nurses, who are on the frontlines of care, interfacing constantly with patients and their families of varying background, culture and religion.

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“For FUSION, it was a no-brainer to try and educate our staff to better care for Muslim patients. They’re a big part of our community, as well as a big part of our patient population,” said Aye-Darko.

She and fellow FUSION member Rachel Onwuachi have placed signs in each room showing the direction of Mecca, which is traditionally faced during prayer.

Onwuachi says she has also been able to stock additional prayer mats and hijabs in the emergency department for patients and their families.

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In addition to dates, officials say apples will be offered as an alternative in recognition of Easter and Passover, as they are a traditional part of the Seder meal.