Students with dietary restrictions don’t have to struggle to find foods that fit their needs at the University of Connecticut’s campus, Michael White, assistant director for Dining Services, and Rob Landolphi, culinary operations manager for Dining Services, said.
Dining Services has a program that allows students with dietary restrictions to work with them towards creating an environment that allows them to feel safe and comfortable in the dining halls they frequent, White said. When they first begin the process, they focus on a particular dining hall.
“We try to meet the student at the dining hall closest to where they eat, or the dining hall they think they’re going to frequent the most,” White said. “That does not mean that that locks them into that location, but it’s just where we think they’re going to have a majority of their meals, so we want to really focus on that building first.”
White and Landolphi began working on this program in 2002, and they feel that they’ve made major strides since then. In particular, Landolphi points out that there’s been a major increase in the number of allergies they cover.
“It’s interesting because back in 2002, honestly, we probably had half a dozen allergies, and now we probably have around 500 if you look at Martha Sternberg’s list,” Landolphi said.
In addition to working with students to work out their individual dietary restrictions, White and Landolphi are also working to limit the number of potential allergens in residence hall menus.
“We try to find clean products, we try to find products that are free of allergens,” White said. “You know that if you’re building from a clean product base, then you’re going to build a clean recipe at the end.”
Programs like this are important for potential students with dietary restrictions, White explained. He believes that more students are putting weight into the food options available to them at the universities they are considering.
“Is it worth applying if I can’t eat safely? Decisions about college were always geared towards academics in the past and finances, they’re probably some of the bigger buckets — well now all of a sudden, you have this new category of food, ability to eat,” White said.
This issue is one important to both White and Landolphi, and they are constantly aiming to improve their work. Landolphi feels that their work is still far from complete, but they’re making major strides.
“I think our goal in the future is really trying to create food that has the least amount of the top 10 allergens if we can, Landolphi said. “That can be a challenge, but I think we’ve come a long way.”
Students who are interested in applying for this program should visit Dining Service’s website for an application for an appointment.
Thomas Alvarez is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.