How Colleges Manage Food Allergies

I recently had the opportunity to eat in a college dining hall (it's been awhile!). While there, I talked to the food services staff about how they handle food allergies. Here's what I learned:
  • Most U.S. colleges use one of two food services companies- Aramark and Sodexo. Both are accustomed to, and comfortable dealing with, special dietary needs of college students.
  • Colleges have departments and staff to deal with special needs, including food allergy. You need to ask the college to direct you to the right area/person.
  • As students turn 18, privacy laws change and colleges may not be allowed to release information to parents. This can be a huge stressor for parents so accustomed to being involved in Healthcare Plans, 504 Plans and meetings with the school nurse, teachers and school staff.
During my recent dining hall visit, I noticed a Silk soy milk dispenser near the dairy milk dispenser. I also saw allergen signs near foods containing common allergens such as nuts and peanuts. One employee told me they serve about 300 custom meals a day- and this was a small campus! He said that some of his students with food allergies go right into the kitchen and the cook will make them whatever they need/want.

During my visit, I felt that food allergies were taken very seriously and that the dining staff was very supportive of students with special dietary concerns. It is important that we empower our food allergic kids to speak up about what they need and make sure they know who they can go to on campus if they encounter any problems.

Take a look at one mom's essay, Food Allergies and College: Making it Work.

The reason for my recent college visit was a requirement in a certification program I'm completing to be an Independent Educational Consultant. I hope you'll visit my website, My College Helper, for information and services for those families with college on the horizon. I will keep my food allergy readers posted on what I find out about colleges and how they handle food allergies.
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