Holy Cross Offers New Services for Students with Food Allergies

New ‘allergy-free kitchen’ now available in Kimball

As national reports of food allergy prevalence increase, schools nationwide have begun to offer special services to accommodate students who suffer from allergies to foods such as milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, and corn. Although Holy Cross has always worked to serve the needs of these students, Dining Services recently expanded its allergy-free accommodations with the construction of a new “allergy-free kitchen” in Kimball Dining Hall, and introduced a gluten-free meal equivalency program.

About 100 Holy Cross students diagnosed with a food allergy can access the allergy-free space. Once a part of the Kimball Dining Hall pantry, the kitchenette is now stocked with gluten-free snacks, microwavable convenience foods, single-use dishes and silverware, and a toaster and microwave.

Through the gluten-free meal equivalency program, students select meals from a carefully planned menu, e-mail Kimball chefs their orders, and pick up the hot food in the allergy-free kitchen.

Students with food allergies are not limited to eating in Kimball. Cortney Flanagan ’11, who suffers from a wheat allergy says, “They offer to-go containers, so if I order a meal I can pick it up and join my friends in Crossroads or at Cool Beans.”

For many students like Flanagan food allergies can go undiagnosed for years. “I just found out about my food allergies this summer. During my freshman and sophomore year I brought a lot of my own food to school because I thought it would keep me from getting sick,” says Flanagan. This year, however, she accesses the allergy-free space nearly every day and frequently orders gluten-free meals.

Timothy Trachimowicz ’99, a chef in Kimball Dining Hall, anticipates that the number of students accessing the allergy-free kitchen will increase.

“The tests for finding these allergies are getting better and better, so more prospective students are looking for a college that is able to meet their needs. We are finding that prospective students who mention they have allergies are just blown away by the options Holy Cross has for them,” says Trachimowicz.

Allergy free accommodations could soon be commonplace in college cafeterias.

Christina Guittar, assistant general manager of Kimball Dining Hall, says, “There isn’t really a dialogue among colleges about what they are doing for students with special diet needs. We are working to improve that.”

Both Guittar and Trachimowicz have been asked to help teach chefs from other colleges and universities to accommodate students with food allergies. This January, they will be moderating a roundtable discussion on the Challenges of Special Diets for Food Allergies in the College Environment at a regional conference sponsored by the National Association of College and University Food Services.

“We’ve been fortunate to have the blessing of the school to construct the space and research what the students want to eat,” says Trachimowicz. “The administration has allowed Holy Cross to be a leader in providing special accommodations for these students.”

By Elizabeth Rodgers ’11

Photo: The allergy-free kitchen in Kimball Dining Hall accommodates students who suffer from food allergies.

January 8, 2010|nm