Gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegan. These words appear more and more frequently on college campuses throughout the country, including Concordia. To accommodate students with dietary restrictions, Concordia’s Dining Services have made some big changes this year.
Students like sophomore Hannah Wollenzien are among the rising number of students with restricted diets. Wollenzien is allergic to yeast and mold, so she must limit her diet.
“I can’t have anything with yeast, and then I can’t have anything that’s made of mold, like cheese. And then I can’t have anything that’s technically fermented,” Wollenzien said. “So white flour, buttermilk, vinegar, processed deli meats. And then because it’s impossible to get rid of all yeast, I can’t have sugar, because sugar feeds yeast.”
When Cindy Hogenson, registered dietician, first started working at Concordia 15 years ago, students with dietary restrictions were a rarity; let alone students who had medical reasons like Wollenzien. Back then, students who were choosing to omit items from their diets as a matter of preference. Making accommodations for these students wasn’t a problem then, but now DS needs to adapt their menus.
“[Working with restricted diets on campus] was very manageable up until a few years ago,” Hogenson said.
According to Hogenson, Concordia must adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA describes a disabled person as “any person who has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activity.” This can include conditions such as severe food allergies and illnesses such as celiacs disease. The ADA requires schools to make accommodations and provide alternate options for students who are considered disabled due to food related issues.
Along with being required to make accommodations for students with disabilities, Concordia’s Dining Services makes changes for students who have preferential dietary restrictions. The college has been seeing increasing numbers of students who are choosing to have gluten free, vegetarian or sometimes even vegan diets.
“We take that very seriously,” Hogenson said. “We see that as a strong obligation because the meal plan is mandatory for freshmen and sophomores,” Hogenson said.
To work with these students, dining services has a dietary modification verification form that those with special dietary needs can fill out. After being submitted, the form is processed by Concordia’s Disability Services so it can be decided how best to work with the students who need special dietary services. If a student qualifies, that student meets with staff members such as Hogenson to discuss how to best accommodate their dietary needs.
Unfortunately, the process seems to take a while, as some students are still waiting to hear back from Dining Services about their paperwork. Wollenzien is among those waiting to have her paperwork processed.
While waiting, students can use other resources to cope with their restrictions. The Net Nutrition station inside Anderson Commons provides information on the food being served and students can request food fresh from storage if they are worried about cross-contamination. It is also possible for students to request gluten-free pizza while they are in Anderson.