Comfy comfort food

The dining halls are negotiating peace between allergies and bellies.

CSU Housing and Dining Services has a variety of different foods and resources available on-campus for students with restricted diets or food allergies –– but it hasn’t always been that way and sometimes, it isn’t enough.

Frustration was sophomore biology major Emily Mohr’s dining companion last year. Allergic to wheat and tree nuts, Mohr talked about her dismay at the lack of a way to identify foods with allergens during the 2011-2012 academic year. This has changed this semester.

“This year they’re a lot better because they have an icon system,” Mohr said.

The six labels used in this icon system are vegan, gluten free, vegetarian, local product, eat well and contains nuts.

Some dining halls also have an allergen-free line in addition to a refrigerator containing gluten-free foods. However, in Mohr’s experience, the fare on most nights consist mostly of chicken and rice. She also said sometimes the line would only have vegetables available due to lack of other food.

One option for students with dietary restrictions is to meet with Brittney Stuard, nutrition and employment manager for Residential Dining Services. During these free consultations, Stuard helps students create lists of foods they’re able to eat and can provide a full menu to plan daily meals.

Specialized and restricted diets are important to planning menu items. Senior Executive Chef Cynthia Lategan said peanuts are used only in bakeshop items. Peanuts are replaced with a similar food, like cashews.

In the Edwards building bakeshop, the gluten-free baked goods are made late at night in a separate room, to avoid contamination, according to Senior Executive Chef Peter Testory.

This consideration for preparation extends beyond baked goods. Students can get special sandwiches at the Sports Grill, Braiden and Corbett.

“We whip out a special board and a special knife that we use for gluten-free sandwiches,” Lategan said.

Foods for religious diets are also being developed. Testory and Lategan are currently conducting research on how to prepare, and train employees in the preparation of, Halal food. The cuisine is meat “slaughtered or prepared in the manner prescribed by Islamic law” according to dictionary.com.

A tool for students provided by the Housing and Dining Services website is the Nutritional Calculator. This program lets students see nutritional information of both individual and grouped items.

Allergen-free lines are located in Corbett and Ram’s Horn. Nutrition Center computer terminals can be found in the Ram’s Horn, Braiden and Corbett dining halls, according to Lategan.

Collegian Writer Devin O’Brien can be reached at news@collegian.com.