In your experience, what is the biggest challenge for college dining halls in operating separate locations or kitchen areas dedicated to serving students with special diets?
“Kitchen space presents the biggest challenge. If possible, create a self-contained, food-forward environment with separate equipment, smallwares and ingredients. It allows college students with allergies to watch their meal being created and build a relationship with the chef. And, it’s great for parents to see and understand the process. Lastly, look underneath your range top for a designated allergy-safe oven. Many see it as a hassle, so it’s often underused. Staff training is an essential.”
—Beth Winthrop, national registered dietitian for universities, Sodexo North America
Link to main story: Colleges create mindful menus
“Customers want the assurance of safety, through cross-contact avoidance, and they also want knowledgeable, informed employees. But they want their dining experience to be inclusive with others, too, not in a separate dining environment. The biggest challenge is to safely segregate operational practices while also providing an inclusive guest environment.”
—Karen Parker, vice president, channel growth, education and healthcare, Aramark
“One of the biggest challenges we face in maintaining a safe environment for food-allergic students is the ever-changing nature of product formulations. Though we focus on using fresh, whole ingredients, the allergen declarations on purchased foods such as breads, cereals, yogurts and whole grains can shift without notice even within a brand. Our teams must be constantly vigilant about checking package labels and fielding questions about ingredients from students with allergies.”
—Terri Brownlee, director of nutrition and wellness, Bon Appétit Management Company
Jodi Helmer is a North Carolina-based writer and frequent contributor to UB.