As many college kids prepare to head back to school in the next couple of weeks, it’s also a good time to know how food allergy-friendly your campus is.
Udi’s, the makers of gluten-free breads, compiled a list of the Top 10 Gluten-Free Accomodating Universities. You can read about what each school is doing to offer their students the best and safest selection of on-campus food here, but in the meantime, these ten universities deserve some praise:
1. University of Notre Dame
2. Georgetown University
3. Iowa State University
4. University of Arizona
5. Emory University
6. University of Connecticut
7. Ithaca College
8. Carleton College
9. University of New Hampshire
10. Clark University
It appears that many other colleges and universities are also beginning to tune into the needs of their food allergic students. And, while there’s no single method that appears to be used as a “best practices” model, there are a number of different variations of making dining food allergy friendly that schools are adapting. Be sure to check your school’s Dining Services information page for their specific guidance and policies regarding food allergies.
Schools have begun food labeling, placing “free from” icons at each meal station. The University of New Hampshire has set aside gluten-free pans for students to use at food preparation stations. Some universities (such as Franklin and Marshall), but not many, are making their dining halls nut-free. Colleges are stocking their shelves with gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, and vegan groceries (as an example, see Cal Poly’s list here), a few offer pre-ordered allergy-free meals and others post dining hall ingredient lists online. In addition to the accommodations made by dining services, many universities offer access to staff dieticians who will work one-on-one with students to evaluate a student’s dietary needs, set up meeting with school chefs, and help navigate menu options.
Many schools are taking necessary and thoughtful steps towards protecting their food allergic populations and some have a ways to go. The best way to stay safe at school is to:
- always keep your emergency meds with you and teach your friends how to use them and when;
- learn about your school’s policy towards on-campus dining with food allergies;
- put yourself in contact with the dining hall director, head chef and/or school’s dietician; and
- ask lots of questions to ensure your food’s safety.
Here’s a great Washington Post article by Sloane Miller, who went through college with food allergies herself. In it, she offers a few more excellent suggestions to keep you on the right track at school: Managing Your Food Allergies in Dining Halls and Dorm Rooms.
There’s no reason you’ll need to miss a meal with friends in the dining hall if you’re informed and prepared!