Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Implications of Food Allergies in College Dining Services

By Nikki Bolduc

UMD South Campus Dining Hall 

As part of our University of Maryland Dining Services rotation, Maria and I recently had the opportunity to attend a food service meeting at Penn State University.  This regional meeting took place as part of the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) organization and included food service professionals from five different colleges.  Topics for the meeting focused on specific issues that dining services face as they relate to food allergies (i.e. gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free) as well as vegetarian, vegan and kosher food preferences. 
Each college shared information about some of their biggest challenges when dealing with food allergies and food restrictions.  Some of the subjects that were discussed in the meeting included best practices when dealing with food allergy signage, how to effectively market special events, the future of healthy menu trends, the use of social media outlets, and green initiatives.  It was interesting to hear what each school was doing to tackle some of these challenges as well as their future plans.  The meeting was very productive and demonstrated how effective peer collaboration can be. 
Overall, I learned a lot about the obstacles registered dietitians face when dealing with food allergies and food restrictions in a food service establishment.  Schools are extremely concerned with keeping their students safe.  Finding the best method to reach students who have food allergies, keep foods separated, communicate which foods are safe, and provide a variety of safe foods can be a huge challenge.  Each school used a different method to do each of these things and while there are no best practice guidelines for schools dealing with such issues, it will remain interesting to see exactly where the future of food allergies and food restrictions in food service go.

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