Colleges adapting to increasing number of students with food allergies

Colleges adapting to increasing number of students with food allergies

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For students with common food allergies, like those allergic to peanuts, gluten or milk, a food line can pose a very serious threat. This is why dining hall staff at Texas Tech is working to make students more aware of exactly what’s in their food.

Informative brochures are just one of the ways to make life in the dining halls a little safer and easier.

When ordering a meal Matt Ferrell often gets creative.

“If I get a burger, its bun-less, throw all vegetables on it,” says Ferrell. “I eat Asian food, rice base, Mexican food or potatoes.”

He’s a Texas Tech grad and manager of the dining hall. Ferrell was diagnosed with Celiac Disease after a routine checkup.

“For me, it was a bloating feeling. Others, it can physically make them sick or nauseous.”

He’s one of the two to three percent of adults with food allergies. According to the CDC, the number of those under 18 with food allergies is rising. In 2007 there were 3 million affected, compared to 2.3 million just 10 years earlier.

“I think many people don’t know if they have a food allergy until they have an outbreak,” says Ali Pohlmeier, a graduate student studying to be a dietitian. Outbreaks are exactly what dining hall work to avoid. Pohlmeier says they’re working to improve awareness of what’s in each food item.

“You can contact them and we can go look at ingredients and make a whole list that’s acceptable,” explains Pohlmeier.

A fresh program launched last week aims to make living with food allergies more manageable. By clicking on Texas Tech’s Smart Choices Web site, students like Matt can find the best places to eat on campus for their needs, and which items to avoid.

“We’re starting to look for more products that are gluten free, for instance, pizza dough, cereals,” says Ferrell.

But it can be costly to go with the alternative items. Executive Sous Chef Dewey McMurrey says it’s a challenge they’re willing to take; they’ve already avoided one potential food problem entirely.

“We don’t use peanuts or peanut oil in anything on campus,” says McMurrey.

The goal is to help all students make smarter food choices and keep those with food allergies more in the know.


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