Food sustains us and provides us a social outlet. I typically suggest that all students visiting a college try the food and watch the interaction among students in the college dining facilities. For some students, food is more important. Eating can be a life and death decision for a student with a severe food allergy. Gluten can make a student with celiac disease become ill. There are also many students who have a diet based on religious and/or moral principles. They may only eat vegetarian, vegan, Kosher or Halal food. So what is a student to do?
Food allergies or celiac disease. If you are a student with a food allergy or celiac disease, consider the guidance on Choosing a School, Dorm Living, Alcohol and Epinephrine, and The Kiss Study provided by Food Allergy Research & Education. Make sure to ask questions of the dining hall staff and to speak to students with your health problem and see how well or poorly they are doing with the college’s food services.
The food service provider Sodexho has recently started the Simple Servings station, a station containing food prepared without milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and gluten. This should be a good match for students with a gluten-sensitivity, like those with celiac disease, as well as the most common food allergies.
According to the Department of Justice, food allergies may constitute a disability under the ADA. That doesn’t mean I haven’t heard of cases where a student transfers after a year at a college because they have ended up in the hospital emergency room several times because of a severe allergic reaction to food from the college dining hall.
Vegetarians and vegans. If you are a vegetarian or vegan student, check out what food choices will you have on campus. Check if vegetarian and vegan foods are clearly marked in the dining facilities. There are often vegetarian or vegan food stations and occasionally, a vegetarian or vegan dining hall, like State University of New York Purchase’s all-vegetarian eating facility, Terra Ve.
|Terra Ve, Vegetarian Dining Hall at SUNY Purchase|
Kosher or Halal food. If you are looking for Kosher or Halal food, here are some questions you might have.
- Is the food available and acceptable to you?
- Is it fresh food or just “frozen” dinners, which you can reheat?
- Is the food part of the normal meal plan or will you have to spend extra for a special meal plan?
- Where on campus is the food available?
- Is there special food available during Passover or Ramadan?
The Hillel College guide and the Heart to Heart’s Map of Kosher Food on Campus are great starting places for students looking for Kosher dining on campus. Since Kosher dining on campus is often both Kosher and Halal certified, this may also be a good starting place for Muslim students wanting Halal food. Muslim students may also want to check with the Muslim student organizations on campus.
What is your experience with special food needs at college?