By: Brian Stiegletz
Options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free foods have gotten a makeover with new signs and labels, making them more accessible to students. For students with dietary needs, such as being gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc., it’s always a struggle when it comes to finding the right food.
In today’s society, the number of people with these dietary issues is increasing, as more people cut meat from their diet, and more people are being diagnosed with a gluten allergy or Celiac disease (the systemic virus where someone cannot digest gluten). Because of this, there are more restaurants and food places advertising vegetarian options or having gluten free menus.
As someone with Celiac disease, when I find a restaurant that cannot work for me or is uncertain whether or not they can accommodate my food restrictions, I simply go to a different restaurant. However, this is almost impossible on a closed campus, which is why signs and labels in the Student Center are such a beneficial new feature.
Walking into the student center, I first noticed these signs at Charcoals when I ordered a burger off the bun. The sign read “Did You Know?” at the top followed by facts about the food outlet and their vegetarian burgers and gluten-free buns. I mentioned the sign to one of the workers, and was given a burger prepared separately and placed on a gluten-free bun, the first one I had in months.
Signs like this are placed at each food outlet such as Sono, offering gluten-free wraps, Pan Asian, listing their vegetarian options and the salad bar, saying that one side is gluten free and vegan. Despite this, it seems there is still room for improvement. There seems to be a strong attempt to accommodate students with dietary needs, but not all of it is done with accuracy. “I was confused, because it (the sign) would say that this side of the salad bar is vegan, yet there would be ranch dressing on it,” said freshman Sarah Hollis.
These new signs may just be another attempt to cure the symptoms, not the disease. In other words, there have been other improvements, like the introduction of gluten-free and vegetarian snacks, the providing of gluten-free bread and the previous labeling of certain stations as to what is vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free.
Nevertheless, what really needs to be done is that workers in the Student Center need to know how imperative these dietary needs are. It’s not that sometimes they don’t know what gluten is or what’s in it, but they also handle foods with gluten or meat while handling the food of someone with a dietary restriction. This could lead to an allergic reaction.
“When ordering my food, I notice they often cross contaminate vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods with knives, ladles, pans, etc.,” said freshman Oscar Courchaine.
In the Student Center, there are still a variety of different choices offered, and while on occasion they may be difficult to find, they are there. “There are options, but I honestly wish there were more. A lot of things you’d expect to be vegetarian aren’t, like the mac and cheese has chicken broth, which wouldn’t normally be expected. I’m happy they are labeling though,” said sophomore Maxwell Henschel.
When the workers are knowledgeable about the food, it makes it much easier to get the right meal. I felt grateful the day I went to Charcoals and met with an employee who knew exactly what he was doing, and was able to accommodate me with the luxury of a completely gluten-free meal. It gets tough sometimes looking for food that fit the dietary needs of students, especially when met with cross-contamination or negligence, but the new signs and labels show the effort that they are trying, and that is good enough for me.