Allergy-free cafeteria: helping students with dietary needs

Mar. 15, 2012

For most, walking into the dining hall for a meal and seeing indistinguishable food out, ready to eat without signs to identify it can be a minor annoyance. But for some students who have food allergies or who require gluten-free diets, a lack of consistent signage can pose a threat to their well-being.

Like many students here at JBU, we at the Threefold Advocate have noticed that the food in the Kresge Dining Hall is often unmarked, and food in both the dining hall and the California Café has no nutritional information displayed. It is true that JBU food services have a website with such info, but it is often woefully out of date or inaccurate. This lack of up-to-date and accurate info is a disservice to the students on campus who have allergen-free, gluten-free, or vegetarian diets.

It's not as if vegetarian, gluten-free, or allergen-free diets are a rarity. According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), one in 25 people have a food allergy. Add to than the those who observe gluten-free diets, over 15 million Americans have specific dietary needs that can severely affect their well-being if ignored. With such a large number of people needing food that is free of allergens or gluten, it is not an obscure or rare occurrence for someone to need alternative dietary options. Many restaurants nationwide have amended their menus in recent years to be mindful of those who may need these alternative menu items, whether it be gluten-free items or an allergen-free menu.

Besides adding new allergen-free and gluten-free menu items, these restaurants also make an effort to make it clear which menu items qualify. Whether it be separate menus or lists, symbols next to menu items, or up-to-date websites, restaurants make this information readily available.

That is where JBU Dining Services have work to do. The Cali and the caf have allergen-free and gluten-free options available, but there is often no way to tell what’s what, especially with allergen-free menu items. There are signs that indicate what food is allergen-free, but there appearance is sporadic and inconsistent. This is an easy problem to fix. All JBU Dining Services has to do is make a commitment to putting information and making the placement of such signs by allergen and gluten free options a primary priority. This solution is simple and makes the fact that such a situation does not exist currently even more puzzling.

There are many people on campus who require careful consideration of what to eat because of allergies or the need for a gluten-free diet. They need to know whether the food served on campus is safe or acceptable for them to eat. The least the University can do is make that information available.

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