Dining halls look into food allergies
Dining Services has been more attentive to students’ various food allergies and dietary restrictions.
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Dining services continues to improve its accommodations for the increasing number of students on the Hill with food allergies or sensitivities.
“More and more students are developing allergies,” Director of Dining Services Firouz Khaksar said. “It seems like it’s going up every year.” Currently, dining services offers lists of ingredients for their items and also posts signs next to foods that contain allergens.
“Our position is that we make sure they have all the information they need so that they can make the educated decision about what they eat,” Khaksar said.
One recent change is that dining services no longer includes pine nuts in the pesto used on campus.
“Sodexo takes [food allergies] and food safety very seriously,” Khaksar said. “We go out of our way to make sure [students] get what they need.”
The number of students requesting gluten-free items has also increased on campus.
“We try to expand our line of items that are gluten-free: the cookies, the cakes and other items.” Khaksar said. “We feel like it’s important enough and we keep getting more kids asking for gluten-free items…[we want students to] enjoy a wide variety of foods, so that they are not so limited.”
To this end, dining services is also currently developing gluten-free entrees as well as desserts. “We are experimenting with gluten-free pasta,” Khaksar said. “Hopefully, if the testing goes fine and we find that the quality is there, then we will probably switch all of our noodles.”
“A lot of my friends have celiac disease and dining services has been really great about that,” Laura Maloney ’12 said. As a student with a nut allergy, Maloney commented on dining services’ management of food containing allergens during dining hours.
“There is cross-contamination with peanut butter, so I’ve never used jelly before in the dining hall,” Maloney said. “I don’t think that’s the fault of dining services at all, but students scooping will put peanut butter [in] jelly or… the granola will spill into the pill into the yogurt.”
Maloney noted that as a senior who is familiar with the campus community, it might be easier for her to reach out to dining services and other students to keep cross-contamination to a minimum. However, this might be difficult for first-years. Maloney suggested that dining services should reach out to incoming students about the resources available for those with food allergies.
“I think that if dining services knew who has allergies that they could reach out to them and just give them more information,” she said. “It would be kind of cool if they [gave] examples of what [students] can do.”
Khaksar said that dining services has “a lot of resources to help [students] with their dietary needs, so if there is something that they feel they don’t get or they would like something different...all they have to do is talk to one of our staff.”
Maloney’s allergy influences her food choices, but overall, “I’ve never felt restricted by my allergy here,” she said. “I feel like Colby is really great in comparison to a lot of other places and much more aware. But there are still some times when I want jam on my English muffin.”