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CDCR firefighters at Eastman Lake, Calif., 2021 (Photo courtesy of CALFIRE)

I was assigned to be the prep cook at Parlin Fork Fire Camp, deep in the Jackson Demonstration Forest in Northern California on April 28, 2020, shortly after the pandemic started. I arrived on the first day of Ramadan, but the camp did not acknowledge religious diets. Pork was to be served, whether you ate it or not.

In the prison, food was scarce, and hunger was common. But in the camp, there was plenty of food to go around, almost like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I struggled to witness such abundance of food while observing Ramadan. I could smell the french fries, cooked in real oil, not baked like they did back in the prison. It was especially hard because the camp did not honor fasting, and no food was prepared outside of scheduled camp meals. There was nothing I could break my fast with.

Two other Muslims, due to their physically tasking jobs as firefighters, were unable to fast. Even though the camp was unwilling to acknowledge Ramadan, the Muslim brothers fed me every night when I broke fast.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Abdur Rahman Malik is a writer incarcerated in California.