May is not only Food Allergy Action Month, but this week is also all about food allergy awareness. Because of this, I want to share some information and tips on navigating through USF with food allergies.
College can be a nerve-wracking time because you are probably not only living on your own for the first time, but you also become responsible for managing your own food allergies. This can be very stressful, as there are important things to keep in mind when dealing with food allergies in college. To help reduce associated stress, here is what you can do to make this process smoother for you.
Once you choose your meal plan, you want to be sure to head over to our website to fill out the Special Dietary Request/Food Allergy Form, which can be found at: https://usf.campusdish.com/HealthAndWellness/OnCampusResources. Once you have completed this form, I will reach out to set up an appointment with you to discuss your needs. You can also schedule regular appointments with me since a benefit of our meal plans is free access to unlimited one-on-one counseling with the registered dietitian! This is a great benefit, especially for students with food allergies, because you can get a better understanding for what foods and beverages are safest for you to consume on campus. Additionally, nutritional gaps and substitutions can be discussed to ensure you are getting a variety of food groups, as well as adequate nutrients in your diet!
In addition to free access to counseling, the following are other great offerings for managing food allergies that can be found here at USF.
Residential Dining – Nutrition, ingredient, and allergen information is available on our website at https://usf.campusdish.com under “Locations and Menus”. Click on a residential dining location, then on menu day and time (breakfast, lunch, dinner), and then click on specific menu item for information. Any menu item information not available can be accessed by the RD and provided to you (contact me)! Note: During this online period, menu content may not be available on our website due to altered menus and locations being closed.
Retail locations – National brand nutrition, ingredient, and allergen information is available on our website at https://usf.campusdish.com under “Locations and Menus”. Click on the desired location to find a pdf or link to brand-specific information! Our retail locations follow all national brand standards.
POD Markets and convenience stores – We have allergen friendly grab n’ go options, snacks, dairy alternatives and frozen items available for you. Do you have a favorite allergen-free snack or frozen meal that you would love to see in our convenience stores? Let us know! Special order requests are taken seriously here at USF. We want your voice to be heard!
Allergen Solutions Programs
True Balance – This program was designed accommodate students with food allergies who need to avoid one or more of seven of the top eight allergens (milk, egg, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nut, shellfish). Those seven allergens are excluded from any product/ingredient in the menu at the True Balance station. Fin fish is one of the top eight allergens, but was included in the menu to provide a variety of protein options. For your safety, this menu has its own prep area, equipment, and utensils. In addition, employees working at this station are required to pass an additional training with myself geared toward food allergies. The training includes understanding what food allergies are, recognizing and reducing risks of cross-contact, and how to handle an allergic emergency, including recognizing symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Gluten Solutions – This program enables USF Dining to safely solve for the growing population of customers that avoid gluten in their diets. It includes menu options at our residential dining locations that are made without gluten. The phrase “made without gluten” refers to ingredients verified from the manufacturer as not containing gluten from wheat, barley, rye or any of its derivatives AND meets the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) definition of Gluten-Free Labeling, which can be found here https://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/ucm402549.htm. For more information about options on campus, see our Gluten Solutions Guide.
In addition to these great campus offerings, I would like to leave you with some tips on how to reduce the stress of navigating through college with food allergies! You can also click here for an allergy-friendly recipe featuring tomatoes, the produce of the month.
- Don’t be embarrassed about your food allergies!
- Educating your friends and others around you will reduce anxiety around your allergies. Close friends will be understanding and supportive.
- If you are living with a roommate, explain your allergy, what you need from them, let them know your symptoms, where medication is kept, and the severity of the allergy.
- Explain precautions when engaging in activities and events. Take part in activities not related to food.
- Meet and get to know the staff. I would be more than happy to take a tour of our locations with you to meet the team!
- Be open and honest about your needs: inform staff of your allergy and ask them to be especially careful when preparing your food.
- Ask the employees questions: How they are preparing food, what ingredients they used or where you can find those ingredients, etc.
- Be safe and always carry medication with you!
- Do not eat something if it doesn’t look right. Instead, talk to the staff or management about it!
- Use resources available to you to help make the safest choices.
If you have food allergies and will be navigating campus with a meal plan, please reach out to me so that we can help reduce food-related stress by making accommodations that best suit your needs!