As high school seniors start to hear back from college admissions, tensions are high–and not just because of the possibility of getting rejected from a school on the top of the list. For soon-to-be college students with food allergies, living — and eating — away from home for the first time can be an exciting yet stressful prospect. For those new to the college search, questions might loom: how do you find a college that best accommodates your food allergy? How can you be your own advocate away from home? In this post, we’ll walk you through steps to best manage the college search with food allergy awareness in mind.
How to figure out a college’s food allergy practices
To really learn a college’s food allergy practices, we suggest you do your research, visit the school, and ask questions. Start with the student disability office — students with food allergies will oftentimes be required to file their accommodations here first. Next, visit the food services director and registered dietician or nutritionist on campus and learn about food preparation practices, food storage, and how they ensure zero cross-contamination. Talk to health and emergencies services to learn what their protocol is for treating allergic reactions. Lastly, inquire about housing options and what it might look like to best navigate your food allergy where you live. Being able to directly communicate your dietary needs to your potential dietary support system is key in ensuring your comfort and safety at college. Check out this helpful list of questions to ask when visiting a prospective college campus.
Our top 5 food allergy friendly colleges
How to be your own food allergy advocate in college
Make sure everyone in your circle knows about your food allergy, not just the adults on campus. It can be awkward at first, but communicating your food needs to your roommate and new friends is super important for maintaining a normalized and safe social life.
If you know you and your friends are planning to go out to eat beyond campus, be proactive and suggest restaurants with allergy-friendly options. Look at the restaurant’s menu online in advance and figure out what you plan to eat. Even calling the restaurant and speaking to a manager can provide peace of mind so that you can enjoy yourself when you actually arrive.
Keeping your own stash of allergy-friendly snacks is a tip we cannot suggest more. Store your favorite snacks in a container free from cross-contamination and carry non-perishable snacks on hand for whenever hunger strikes.
If you have an allergy that may cause anaphylaxis, it’s important to carry appropriate medicine (like an epipen) at all times.
Find a support group
You may be surprised at how many college campuses have student groups for food allergies. The Celi-Yaks club at the University of Iowa is a perfect example of this! It’s a student run group for those with celiac disease and gluten intolerances – not only does it provide members with a space to feel safe and understood, they also do quite a bit of advocacy work.
So when vetting your college options, it might be a good idea to ask around to see if there are any food allergy related student groups on campus!
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To learn more about these colleges’ food allergy practices, check out this post! For more posts about college and food allergies: