Students with dietary restrictions reflect upon the options they have in dining halls

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A student receiving food from the Simple Servings station

Most students find it easy to access food that they both want to eat and feel comfortable with, but with the rising numbers of dietary restrictions among youth, there are differing opinions of whether Marquette’s campus has the proper accommodations to reach their needs.

Leah Beardsley, a first-year in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she is struggling to find enough options on campus. Due to a medical diagnosis, she is choosing to stay gluten and soy-free. Beardsley explained that when she goes into the dining halls, options typically contain both soy and gluten.

“Most of the time it contains one or the other,” said Beardsley. “For a week straight, I was mostly eating salads, which is really frustrating.”

Beardsley is not alone in her struggle to find accommodations in the dining halls. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization, an organization that seeks to empower and educate people with dietary restrictions, noted that food allergies have significantly increased. Over the last 20 years, food allergies in children have increased by 50%.

Beardsley also mentioned she gets anxious going into dining halls because she feels as though she is bothering the staff every time she eats.

“I feel so guilty every time they have to change gloves. I also don’t enjoy asking them what food is free of what because they seem to get annoyed,” said Beardsley.

Not all students with dietary restrictions feel this way. Some students with more common allergies, such as dairy or nuts, feel like they have access to plenty of food in the dining halls. Maggie Carroll, a first-year in the College of Nursing, is lactose intolerant. Carroll feels as though there are plenty of options in the dining halls.

“There are definitely enough options for me in the dining halls, so I can’t complain about it,” Carroll said. “Dairy is an easy and common thing to avoid, and the chefs here at Marquette do a good job with labeling what I can and can’t eat.”

Even though Carroll and Beardsley differ on their feelings toward the food accessible to them in the dining halls, they agreed that there are not enough sweets free from allergies.

“Most of the dessert is not labeled, so I am not sure if I can eat it or not,” Carroll said.

One of the newer features of the dining halls is the Simple Servings stations, which are areas where students can get food that is guaranteed to be free of seven out of the eight top allergens, which are eggs, cow’s milk, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish.

Lucas Flaherty, the dietitian on campus, explained the importance of these Simple Servings stations as well as the process it takes for a campus to have them in the dining halls.

“It needs to be managed by a dietitian,” said Flaherty. “We do extensive audits to ensure that we are not bringing in a product that is not supposed to be in that area. We go through the coolers and make sure that there is no sort of cross-contamination.”

Flaherty believes that there are plenty of options available to students with dietary restrictions on campus, but the main issue is that students aren’t educated on what they should be eating, which can cause their nutrition to spiral out of hand. To prevent this from happening, Flaherty encourages students to reach out if they are struggling to find options.

“Let someone know that you are having issues because students have so much other stuff going on so dining halls are probably one of the last things on their mind,” Flaherty said. “I’m here to support the students, but I can’t do that without knowing who is struggling.”

This story was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at phoebe.goebel@marquette.edu