Statistics show that one in 13 students have food allergies. When moving away from home to attend college, having to add food allergies into the mix can make it even more stressful. At the University of Michigan, MDining is helping students take the guesswork out of the equation.
Last year, U-M was one of 12 schools selected to launch a national pilot program aimed at providing campuses with resources to effectively manage food allergies, a potentially life-threatening disease. The non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) introduced the College Food Allergy Program to provide students with a safer college experience by developing comprehensive, uniform food allergy management policies.
MDining provided input for FARE’s guidelines on “Managing Food Allergies in Higher Education,” as well as training materials and student brochures. The pilot guidelines will now be put into place throughout the Ann Arbor campus.
“We strive to serve everyone’s nutritional needs and make sure our dining halls are inclusive. Parents of students with allergies can have peace of mind that their student will have plenty of options,” said Lindsay Haas, a nutrition support specialist who represented MDining during FARE’s College Summit in 2014. The summit resulted in pilot guidelines being written.
Here are some other ways MDining ensures safe and healthy meals for its students:
In fall 2016, U-M will add a third Gluten Free (GF) Pantry on campus, this one in the Mosher-Jordan Dining hall. Other GF Pantries are located in Bursley and South Quad, which were used by 294 students with GF access more than 20,000 times combined during the 2015-16 school year. The pantries are separate locked-down rooms stocked with gluten-free and other free-from foods. Students with celiac disease and other food allergy and sensitivity needs are given special access to this room through their MCard (student ID). Before students are given permission for the room, they must undergo online training to reinforce steps in preventing cross-contact. The room is stocked with its own set of plates, silverware and cups, its own dishwasher, and freshly prepared foods. In addition, all dining halls have gluten-free pasta and other food items clearly marked.
U-M’s food-allergy preparedness also includes a database of more than 10,000 recipes. Each recipe is flagged with allergens as well as vegetarian, vegan and halal designations. Through digital menu boards, point-of-service signage, websites and mobile apps, MDining provides nutritional and allergen information for all food served in residential dining halls, retail units and catered events on campus. In addition, MDining registered dietitians offer one-on-one counseling and online tools to guide students in making good choices.
The "MyNutrition" website allows students to use filters to search for safe menu items, as well as keep track of calories. Filters can be applied for the eight most common allergens as well as pork, oats, and sesame. Filters are also available for gluten-free, halal, "MHealthy", spicy, vegan and vegetarian. MyNutrition displays all ingredients for every single item found in the dining hall.
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