Barone Making Effort, but Students with Allergies Must Help Selves

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Tom McKiver/The Mirror

In selecting colleges, some students look at the academic reputation of a university, while others may be more interested in how well the university’s sports teams are doing.

Mary Jane Baker had a different set of criteria.

“When applying to schools both my parents and myself asked about accommodations for students with food allergies,” Baker said. Baker has a severe nut allergy and her criteria in looking at schools was based on whether or not she could be provided with accommodations for her allergy.

While Baker finds that Barone offers a variety of options for students with a nut allergy, there is not enough protein or fruits available for students with or without food allergies.

Baker is not alone with such problems. According to The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s website, more than 12 million Americans have a food allergy.

Food service officials at Fairfield and other schools say they face a huge challenge in trying to accommodate student’s individual needs and taste on a regular basis.

“Students who work with us regardless of how they get in contact with us, we try to accommodate them,” said Jim Fitzgerald, assistant vice principal of student affairs.  Fitzgerald explained that most students choose not to be vocal about their dietary needs; most of the time parents will be vocal through the application process.

As of now the University is working with ten students who have food allergies. About 80 percent of those students are very active with the administration and dining staff. Both the administration and dining staff have made major strides in accommodating students with these dietary needs.

For example, all of the bulk peanut butter has been removed from Barone and the staff does its best to monitor the ice cream cart daily, Fitzpatrick said.

Other schools take different approaches. At Notre Dame, students who require gluten-free diets, or have a peanut, soy or dairy allergy are offered specialized plans to fit their dietary needs. Those who request this specialized plan can have pre-made meals ready for pick up.

While a plan such as this is not offered at Fairfield University, the administration and dining services work with students who have a food allergy by sending out weekly menus. But the students need to speak up, alert the staff, and be vocal about their allergy.

All schools are trying to accommodate students to avoid incidents such as those that have occurred at Yale University.

While signs posted next to the food listing all ingredients were posted in the cafeteria, a student from Yale had to be rushed to the Yale-New Haven Hospital to receive treatment for her reaction.

Most allergic reactions occur when a person eats something that they thought was safe. Trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction in those who have a food allergy, according to the FAAN website.

Like Yale, Fairfield does list the ingredients above the dishes put out for students at all three meals. The fear of cross contamination, however does keep students with allergies out of Barone. Kevin Matthews ’13, who has an allergy to peanuts and tree nuts, said that cross contamination is one of the main reasons he chooses to eat in the Stag or places off campus.

For the 1,743 students who are on a meal plan, accommodating their individualistic taste is not realistic.

Fairfield University administration and Sodexho are constantly trying to find ways to keep the menu from becoming repetitive for students, Fitzgerald said. He explained that the challenge for the dining staff is that while some ideas may look good on paper, the new dishes do not always attract students.

“[I] don’t try anything other than comfort foods or simple foods,” said Bryan Shea ’13. “[Sodexho tries] to put a variety out but everything runs out too quick.”

While most students like Shea tend to lean towards what Fitzgerald considers “comfort food”, pizza; hamburgers; macaroni and cheese, sophomore Brady Dow ‘13 said that he does in fact try the different dishes Barone offers, but finds that at the end of the day he always finds a hamburger or pizza on his plate.

When asked about nutrition versus taste, Fitzpatrick said that it is the student’s own decision to be conscious of their caloric intake.

“I tend to try whatever looks appetizing,” Megan Kuzniewski ’14 said, “Mac and cheese is usually good.”

Comfort foods are what usually attract students the most,  according to Fitzpatrick. Healthy options are available for students, though most feel as though the choices of vegetables and fruit could be of a larger variety.

It is all a balancing act, according to Fitzpatrick.

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