Rob Landolphi, culinary operations manager, spoke about the ways students with dietary restrictions, both medical and preference, can have their needs and desires met.
Landolphi said that students with medical dietary restrictions and preferential restrictions should not go about the process the same way. Students with medically-driven dietary restrictions should contact the University of Connecticut Center for Student Disabilities (CSD), while students with preferential restrictions should contact Dining Services directly or speak with the dining hall manager.
“Students who have medical driven diets should contact the CSD office, who will then refer them to Dining Services,” Landolphi said. “Any other students who have requests or questions pertaining to personal preferences can contact Dining Services directly or talk with a manager at the dining hall.”
Landolphi said that Dining Services want to make the dining experience as good as possible for students with dietary restrictions. They do this by meeting with the student to fully understand their likes, dislikes and specific restrictions.
“We can schedule a meeting with the student at a dining hall of choice and introduce them to the management/culinary team. We will then find out the student’s likes and dislikes and share contact information,” Landolphi said. “At that point, we can establish a system that best meets that individual’s eating preferences: This could be a blend of eating off the pre-existing menu and emailing ahead of time so we can have a dish prepared for them when they arrive.”
Despite the accommodations in place, Landolphi said some students are apprehensive to ask for help. He said that he wants students to feel comfortable asking for accommodations as though the dining halls’ kitchens were their own.
“A lot of times, I have students say they don’t want to bother us or they don’t want to be labeled, but they must understand that we are here for them and have many ways of accommodating them that will make them feel comfortable and inclusive,” Landolphi said. “I want them to think of us as though our kitchen is also their kitchen. Only difference is it is staffed with a team of talented managers and chefs that will do everything within our powers to make sure they are fed dishes that meet their needs.”
These accommodations will differ from student to student depending on their needs and preferences, Landolphi said. For example, he said a student with a dairy allergy can ask for a meal to be prepared without cheese easily.
“If someone has a dairy allergy and we’re preparing a dish that at the end we’re sprinkling parmesan cheese on the top … there’s no reason why we can’t prepare them one and put it aside before we even add cheese to it, so we can make accommodations that way that will allow us to meet the needs of the students,” Landolphi said.
Landolphi said Dining Services wants to hear from students who may face restrictions of any kind. He stressed that they are there to help students get the most out of their time at UConn, something easier to do with satisfying meals.
“Don’t be shy and don’t be apprehensive, we are here for you and understand the pressures and stress you are under academically,” Landolphi said. “Getting food that you enjoy, that will keep you healthy and focused while here at UConn should not be an added stress. Just ask, and we will accommodate.”
Additionally, Landolphi encouraged students to reach out to him by email with any feedback or suggestions they may have. He said that any feedback from students is considered, and some recipes provided may even be used in dining halls in the future.
“I’m always looking for feedback from students, you know, that’s most important. If students have certain ingredients or companies they like or even recipes from home that mom cooks for them that happen to be vegan or vegetarian, please send them my way,” Landolphi said. “We’ll take it, sometimes we’ll print it off and we’ll test it, and next thing you know, if it goes real well, it’ll be in a dining hall. It’s that simple.”