For some, walking into the dining hall is like walking into a world of endless possibilities, whereas for others the choices aren’t so easy. For vegans, vegetarians and students with gluten, nut or dairy allergies, finding food in the dining hall can be more of a challenge.
All three dining halls, Ridgeway Commons, Viking Commons and the Fairhaven Commons, offer a ‘worry-free zone’ that is all food without meat, gluten, dairy or nuts, said Sarah Richey, the Western dietician for Campus Recreation Services and Student Dining. In addition, she said the dining halls usually have gluten free pizza, pasta, quinoa, rice and plain grilled meet made-to-order when students request it.
Richey’s position is to counsel and help accommodate students’ dietary needs. She meets with students on an individual basis to address nutritional concerns.
“The chefs and dining managers want students to feel comfortable approaching them with any questions and concerns,” Richey said. “Communication between the student with an allergy and the dining team is key; once we know your needs, we accommodate almost any dietary challenge.”
The size of the ‘worry-free zone’ varies with each dining hall, with Fairhaven Commons having the largest.
Still, for freshman Cat Lasswell, maintaining her vegetarian diet has its ups and downs. Lasswell lives in the Ridgeway Complex and mainly eats at the Ridgeway Commons dining hall.
According to Lasswell, the Ridgeway Commons does not offer many dishes for vegetarian students other than the salad bar, cheese or vegetable pizza and an occasional meatless pasta dish.
With the limited options, it is even more difficult to maintain a healthy diet, she said.
Another vegetarian, Eleanor Clarke, also feels that the dining halls are limited in selection.
“I feel like [they] thinks that the only way to make something vegetarian is to add cheese to it,” vegetarian Eleanor Clarke said. “[Vegetarians] don’t want to eat cheese all the time.”
Students with gluten allergies cannot eat anything containing wheat, rye or barley. Many foods include these ingredients, such as pasta, bread and cereal.
Freshman Julie Wied maintains a gluten-free diet.
“Finding food here on campus is a real challenge for me,” Wied said. “I basically have to stick to eating the same foods every day.”
Wied said there are always pasta, burgers, pizza and other bread based foods, but hardly any dishes that are gluten or wheat free. The dining halls always have rice, salad, and vegetables which are some of the few things that students with this allergy can consume, she said.
“If you are a student with a food allergy and you are struggling to find options in the dining hall, communicate with your dining staff – we’d love to hear from you,” Richey said.