To say it’s scary when your kids flee the nest and go off to college for the first time is an understatement—there are so many unknowns! Who will your child befriend? Will she wake up in time for class without a friendly reminder from Mom or Dad? Will he eat healthy, balanced meals? This last worry can be especially heightened if your child has a food intolerance or allergy.
The ability to provide realistic free-from dining options is a huge factor for kids (and their parents) in evaluating potential schools. Luckily, many universities across the country have begun to seriously address this concern.. Whether it’s creating individualized dining programs, providing gluten-free food stations, or offering designated allergen-free dining areas, some schools understand that providing inclusive eating programs is essential to their students’ health and success. We’ve put together a list of a few allergy friendly college campuses.
Four dining halls at Syracuse now boast an official gluten-free certification from Kitchens with Confidence, the leading allergen and gluten-free accrediting firm. Prep surfaces are tested regularly and quarterly reports by Kitchens with Confidence ensure that any new menu items are approved, staff are properly trained, and any non-compliant foods are recalled. Syracuse hopes to reduce anxiety for gluten-free students and their parents by verifying the safety of dining options with a credible third-party. In addition, Food Services staff are more than happy to work with students to design specialized dining plans and help them find allergen-free foods available on campus.
Eating gluten-free isn’t just a health necessity for some students at Georgetown, it’s also an opportunity to implement social change by advocating for greater inclusivity and awareness on campus. Students who live a gluten-free lifestyle can find community in Gluten-Free Foodies, a student group that sponsors gluten-free potlucks, cooking competitions, and dinners while also working with dining services to negotiate allergen-appropriate selections on campus.
Students at the University of Alabama will start out the 2018-2019 academic year with access to gluten-free food at one of the school’s most popular dining halls. Lakeside Dining Hall will undergo extensive renovations this summer to offer the school’s first ever gluten-free food stations as well as a wood fire grill that avoids the cross-contamination of allergens commonly found in vegetables and meat.
Making food accessible to the entire student body is a priority for Cornell. Not only are all foods in the All You Care To Eat dining rooms labeled for major food allergens (as well as gluten), but cooks try their best to make as many menu items as possible without gluten. There are gluten-free stations in several dining rooms where students can doctor their meals with allergen-safe condiments and toppings, or heat items up in designated gluten-free microwaves and toasters.
More specifically, Cornell’s Risley Dining hall is certified 100% gluten-free, tree-nut-free, and peanut-free and certified by Kitchens with Confidence. Cornell worked with Amy Fothergill (who is also a Nima community member) to develop the gluten-free menu items for Risley Hall.
Vanderbilt has covered all its bases when it comes to providing different options for gluten-free eats. Students looking for a quick bite between classes should head to Munchie Marts, the small market-style convenience stores on campus where students can use their meal swipes and meal money to purchase packaged items and microwaveable meals. There’s a robust gluten-free section that includes popular brands like Annie’s and evol. Taking advantage of the school’s dining app also makes eating easy for students with intolerances. They simply submit requests to the dining staff who then prepare healthy, gluten-free meals at student-specified times. You can learn more about Vanderbilt’s allergen-free programs in this Breaking Bread post we did with one of our community members, Valerie Kraft.
At the University of Arizona, students can take control over what they eat in college (and beyond!) and learn how to cook by attending Cooking on Campus events, culinary crash courses led by student chefs. Many of the courses follow a particular cuisine or theme which some of the time include—you guessed it—gluten-free fare. In addition, the course website provides a plethora of clearly labeled recipes without gluten for students to test out in their own kitchens, spaces they can ensure are allergen-free.
These colleges are just a few that are aware of the growing need for diverse and safe dining options on campus and are not alone in their efforts to successfully accommodate students. When evaluating schools, definitely do your research! It is best to contact a school’s dining services or dietician/nutritionist directly if you need to set up a specialized meal plan or have questions about how your child will be best fed while away from home.
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