Tuesday, April 28, 2015

College and Food Allergies

It's that time of year again-- high schoolers are visiting schools and planning for college. 
      College dining for a food allergic student can be-- at best, challenging and at worst, unsafe. To say nothing of unhealthy if the student can't find safe meals to eat and must " make do" with less than nutritious or substantial food. 
( it's a problem my kid had and came
home Christmas break "malnourished.")
  Many colleges and universities are recognizing the growing food allergy issues-- as well as the rising interest in food in general among students. In response to the food allergy concerns-- which can have an impact on a school's liabilities, bottom line, as well as reputation-- schools are looking to many resources. FARE is developing a college response plan. Sources from the food industry are trying to respond with organizational changes-- like specialized stations in the dining halls. (Simple Servings-- a program out of Sodexo food services-- is being adopted many places.) 
  There is the school's office of disabilities. But they are responsible for keeping the school safe from lawsuits, not safe for your child. Keep that in mind-- and it's not that they won't try to be helpful, but if it's you or the school at stake-- guess whose side the Disabilities people are on. 
 Just good to know. 
And further to this discussion-- one of the most difficult concerns to parse out is the transition from what is agreed upon in The Dining  Services office and what happens on the dining hall line. Ay, there's the rub. 
  The gap between plan and implementation is often too wide to bridge. And, it's always where issues can occur-- just as with anything in this world. The paper plan looks great; ingredients and recipe look safe.  But does one cook add something a little extra? Can the sever really keep a plain baked potato under his counter until your child comes to claim it? Are the salad bar utensils really kept separate and refreshed often?
   Then add a possible layer between the food supplier and the university dining services and then the servers on the line-- it could be like the old-time game of "Telephone."  The information you started with is completely different by the time it reaches the last person on the line. 
   I'm not trying to be negative-- just practical. Think about these issues as you speak to the dining services folks. Nothing may be perfect-- and some schools can handle one or two allergies, but not multiple. Some smaller schools will cook meals individually, some will not. All will try to be helpful-- and most times, it will work out! 
And if it doesn't, your child gets the opportunity to advocate for upcoming students and for the community at large. 

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