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Dining halls cater to students’ special diets

Amanda Gray | Thursday, September 30, 2010

For sophomore Katie Pryor, the worst thing about having celiac disease on campus is being locked into eating at the dining halls.

“If I miss a meal at the dining hall,” she said, “I miss a meal.”

Pryor was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease freshman year. She cannot have any gluten — a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and hydrolyzed oils.

“For the first three weeks, I had fruit and vegetables for every meal because I didn’t know what to eat,” Pryor said.

Jocie Antonelli, manager of nutrition and safety for Food Services, said her department uses many mediums, including a website, signs and e-mails to reach out to students with dietary needs.

“We want to keep students safe,” she said.

Measures to keep students safe range from specially prepared meals and shopping for specialty foods to rearranging cereals and salad bars for nut and egg allergies.

“Eating is a part of the college experience,” she said. “We want all the students to be able to participate.”

Antonelli works one-on-one with students to teach them what is available in the dining halls for different food sensitivities and allergies.

“We want students to have as close of an experience as other students have,” she said.

Antonelli introduced Pryor to Chrissy Andrews, a 2010 graduate who founded Gluten-Free ND (GFND).

“She took me out to lunch three days in a row and went through the whole dining hall menu and what I could eat at the Huddle and other places,” Pryor, now secretary of GFND, said.

GFND meets weekly in Walsh Hall to discuss problems and solutions to eating on campus. The group sends e-mails to Antonelli about any concerns or ideas the group has and also sends e-mails to the Huddle with lists of gluten-free products to stock.

“We are trying to get more fresh food on campus,” Pryor said.

She said on-campus eateries are getting better at adapting to gluten-free foods, little by little.

Other special food needs on campus include lactose intolerance and religious requirements.

Amanda Bremer, a senior and resident assistant (RA) in McGlinn Hall, has learned to live with lactose intolerance, a sensitivity to milk and milk products.

“At first I just couldn’t have ice cream. Then it was sour cream, then yogurt, then cheese,” she said. “This was slow, through the first half of the semester freshman year.”

But Bremer said she didn’t turn to help from Food Services.

“I made a list of what I couldn’t have through trial and error,” she said.

Some times of the year are harder than others, Bremer said.

“During Lent [is the hardest time],” she said. “To substitute protein, the dining hall puts cheese on everything. By the end you don’t have many choices.”

Bremer said problems also arise with club events, including pizza or ice cream, or when the Huddle discontinued selling soy ice cream. Nevertheless, she has found creative ways to enjoy places on campus.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it because there are worse allergies and intolerances,” she said. “[On-campus eateries] do have enough variety that I can enjoy myself.”