Cafeteria seeks to meet dietary restrictions

After battling health issues, senior Jessica High’s food restrictions kept her from enjoying an average meal at the cafeteria like everyone else.

Her gluten-, dairy- and soy-free diet left little to desire as she searched the cafeteria’s menu online on a weekly basis, only realizing there was not much she could actually consume.

After the doctor cut such food from her diet last semester, she thought she could get by for a couple of months by eating what she could from the cafeteria until she began losing weight.

“I lost so much weight because beans just didn’t cut it anymore,” she said.

As the expense of a gluten- and soy-free diet paired with a busy schedule made life even more difficult, High sought help from the University’s food services and talked to Aramark chef Scott Hicks about her food restrictions.

“A lot of students don’t know what we have to offer simply because they are unaware,” he explained.

Aramark deals with food restrictions on an individual basis as students approach them with their dietary needs.

Once food service workers are aware of students needs, they create custom meals according to their restrictions as well as their schedule.

Aramark currently accommodates more students dealing with soy and gluten sensitivities due to their food restrictions. However, the more food restrictions students have the more limited their selections are.

“We try to keep their meals the same as others,” Hicks said. “For instance, if the other students are having chicken with a certain sauce, we’ll just make theirs separately.”

Last year, Hicks researched the availability to purchase gluten-free bread and cake mixes but it would have cost five times more than what they are already doing. Though they do not serve gluten-free bread, students can still enjoy deli sandwiches from the cafeteria by bringing in their own bread.

Currently, food services provide gluten-free pizza skins for specialty pizzas, lettuce wraps and also serve chicken and vegetables for students who are gluten-free.

This year, Hicks met with 10 to 15 students about their dietary needs but is only making two separate meals each day despite these previous discussions.

“We’re here to take care of students regardless of their issues,” Hicks said.

After discovering Aramark’s accommodations for students struggling with food sensitivities, High decided to stay on the meal plan.

“People just don’t know what food services offers and they should be more aware,” she said.