Students with special dietary needs scrape by on campus

By Molly Bello

Comment Columnist

Eating on campus can be tricky business for those with special diet needs, such as allergies. Photo via The Comment archives.
Eating on campus can be tricky business for those with special diet needs, such as allergies. Photo via The Comment archives.

 

All nuts, all legumes (especially peanuts), eggs, soy, apples, bananas, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, melon, cherries, and mustard seed. These are the foods I have to watch out for, because I’m allergic to them.

They are complicated too. I can have eggs and most fruits if they are baked, but I cannot have an omelette or a raw apple. I don’t expect anyone to remember all of my allergies, but as long as they know about nuts, peanuts and that eggs have to be baked, I’ll be safe when it comes to food shopping.

I always find something to eat at the dining halls. When they have signs identifying common allergens and listing ingredients, I know immediately what I can and cannot have. However, sometimes signs are mislabeled, and I can tell that what I’m reading isn’t about what I’m seeing below the sign.

I can’t get butter on my toast, or cream cheese on my bagel, unless they are individually wrapped. The open containers just aren’t safe when they are next to the peanut butter.

I can almost always get a well-balanced meal and find healthy options that I can eat, as long as nuts and peanuts are separate from the food around them.This is not true of all students with dietary restrictions.

“I am able to eat packaged food that has a kosher symbol on it,” junior psychology major Nechama Zirkind said. “Which is basically snack foods like pretzels and chips: beverages that have kosher symbols on them; and fresh fruit and vegetables. Typically I bring my own lunch, but I do enjoy the pretzel chips and hummus snack.”

Some schools do have a kosher kitchen, but it isn’t very common.

“The easiest way for BSU to help students who keep kosher,” Zirkind said, “would be to provide more prepackaged foods at the dining halls.”

With the gluten-free craze, it’s good to hear that BSU can be accommodating.

“I think BSU does a good job providing gluten free options,” freshman health studies major Margaret McCormick said. “Gluten free wraps and pizza are available at most places, and Tilly and the ECC have a really great salad bar.”

“As well as trying to stay gluten free, I am a vegetarian, so it’s really important that I make sure I have enough protein in my diet,” McCormick added. “The dining halls here provide beans, tofu, and cottage cheese, which are all really great sources of protein, and I make sure to put beans or tofu in my salad every day.”

While the dining halls on campus provide the basic staples for a gluten free diet, more variety is always welcome.

“Gluten free pasta made from quinoa and brown rice is really great, so I think the dining halls should acquire that,” McCormick suggested.

The more options offered for students with dietary restrictions, the more we feel like we can eat “normally” and without fear of cross contamination. Keeping common allergens like peanuts separate from other food ensures a safer dining experience.

BSU has a great start, but we can do more.

 

Molly Bello is a Comment Columnist. Follow her on Twitter at @mollybello.

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