Sunday, June 16, 2024

Students with food allergies navigate campus dining

NewsCampus NewsStudents with food allergies navigate campus dining

BY HALEY GLAZIER
Staff Reporter




Student Amanda Mack is a sophomore exercise science major. She has celiac disease and is allergic to garlic and onion. She is unable to use any stations in the dining halls, including the allergen-free station, due to the possibility of cross-contamination. During her freshman year, she had to preorder every meal of the day, but even with a smaller meal plan this year, she still finds herself preordering dinner five times a week. 

In 2021, the university was a Community Choice Award nominee for the Food Allergy Research and Education Food Service Award, which recognizes the top campuses’ outstanding service in ensuring accommodations for students with food allergies. 

Despite this, finding inclusive options in the dining halls or campus restaurants is not always so simple. If students have food allergies and have a dining plan at the university, they usually email Debbi Miller, the university’s dietitian, to make sure their food is allergen-free. 

Furthermore, the university has a station open called True Balance in the Caesar Rodney and Pencader dining halls. At this station, the dining hall staff do not cook with the top nine allergens.

“For people with one of the top nine allergens, including gluten, the True Balance station is very helpful because you know it is safe to eat,” Mack said. “I have other allergies, like garlic and onion, which are used to cook in the True Balance station, so I custom order my meals instead.” 

Veronica Bell, a sophomore nutrition major, started her freshman year with no allergies. Later in the year, she learned that she had an allergy to gluten. Her first concern was how she would continue to eat at the dining halls. She quickly reached out to Miller. 

Miller oversees each dining hall to make sure that the students who are in need of her help stay safe. She corresponds with students regarding which options the dining halls are serving that they are able to consume. If certain students are allergic to everything being served, they have the option to pre-order their meals, as Mack does. 

“When I first reached out to Debbi, she immediately set up a meeting with me and talked me through my dining options,” Bell said. “She emails me every week with a gluten-free menu, and when I had a problem with some of my meal orders, she got back to me within the hour and was quick to apologize on behalf of the dining hall and help me find a solution.” 

Miller’s contact information is displayed on the televisions in both student centers and all three dining halls on campus. Bell emphasizes the benefits of having access to a dietitian on campus.

“It was very easy to find out how to contact Debbi,” Bell said. “When Student Health [Services] suggested I go gluten-free, they gave me Debbi’s contact information. Also, I see her email posted in the dining halls sometimes, and even Debbi herself is in the dining halls occasionally. So it makes it so easy to eat with a dining plan on campus and still feel included.” 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for focusing on the importance of safe, inclusive college dining for students with food restrictions. This article has been added to the college news section of our Gluten Free Friends website which has original blog content, survey responses from students with food restrictions, and curated college dining news to help raise awareness and push for better dining programs. Take a look for some more ideas on how to improve dining at U of Delaware!

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