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Make Notre Dame more allergen-friendly

| Friday, February 22, 2019

To put it very bluntly, I think of myself as belonging to a variety of minority groups: I’m a biracial female at Notre Dame who still vehemently supports “A Star Is Born.” I often use these columns, and my writing in general, to call attention to these groups I belong to. But there has been one group absent from my writings — people with dietary restrictions.

Yes, I am that person who asks if there is a gluten-free bun available. I am that person who requires soy or almond milk. And, no, not because I despise the taste of real bread and ice cream. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s because my body has chosen to reject gluten and dairy, in a very violent way. Perhaps it’s because growing up, I ate at least one ice cream product a day, and one of my favorite meals was macaroni and cheese as well as anything with cheese in it. But that’s beside the point. The point is, I’ve had numerous doctor’s appointments, and even a surgery, because of this problem. The only bright side in all of this, is that somehow out of sheer luck, I ended up with a roommate freshman year who has similar issues as I do, and our other best friend is also gluten-free.

My fellow gluten- and dairy-free friends (as well as ones with other food allergens) and I are tired of having to scan the dining hall hoping that today they haven’t dumped milk in the chicken for some reason — seriously, they have listed milk as an allergen for their chicken. We pray that the gluten- and dairy-free section of North and South has been stocked for the day, and hope for variety.

We know exactly what each dining hall has to offer in terms of their “allergen friendly” section: North offers a pizza- and pasta-making station, with occasional vegan cheese and gluten-free waffles and items of the like, while South maintains its selection of dairy- and gluten-free microwaveable mac-and-cheeses and frozen donuts, among other bread and bagel options. And of course, each dining hall has a salad bar, and quinoa and vegetables. This is great and all, but one can only stand these few meals for so long before they go crazy. Yes, variety is possible with these options, but it requires us — notoriously lazy college students — to do it, even though we are paying over $1,000 a year for a dining plan that others do not have to work nearly as hard to stay fed on. And if you’re thinking about stopping by a dorm event for a free cookie or other snack? Forget about it if you have a dietary restriction because let me tell you, there’s typically nothing there for you.

I know it is very unrealistic to expect there to be more options for us in the dining halls, but it would be nice to not have to make eggs, gluten-free stir-fry or a salad for every single meal while paying the same as others who can eat anything in sight. It would be nice to not have to waste many swipes a week because we are burnt out of eating the same thing over and over, and having to spend an exorbitant amount of money at Whole Foods anyway to get some other gluten- and dairy-free foods. Perhaps each hall could vary their offerings a little bit, and pick up a couple new products each week.

Alas, I know this is not likely to happen. So, I’m writing this to all those people who stare at me as I ask about gluten-free options and dairy-free milk — I’m sorry, I don’t want to do this either. But you certainly do not want to see me after a barista has accidentally put a hearty dose of 2-percent milk in my coffee instead of soy milk.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and serves as Managing Editor of The Observer. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

Contact Mariah