Describe your food restrictions by checking all relevant boxes
Celiac Disease, Other (describe below)
Grade your college on feeding students with your food restrictions
Explain your rationale for that grade
Food not great to begin with and have had some issues with cross contamination and lack of server knowledge. Online menus have errors both in what is available and what allergens foods contain, but in dining hall usually okay. Have raised concerns with dietitian, but change happens slow and it's unclear whether it's going anywhere even when they say they'll improve things. That being said, they connected me with the chefs at a dining hall to improve the situation and have some pretty cool housing accommodations options. Dining halls have a lack of variety, especially with any dietary restrictions. It's really not great and I almost gave them a D but didn't because of the helpfulness of the chefs and amazing options at one campus market.
What stage are you in college?
How many years ago were you diagnosed with food allergies or celiac disease?
Please use this space to provide details that would help us better understand your food restrictions. Include your reaction if exposed to the foods you are avoiding. Please mention if you carry an epi-pen.
I have Celiac Disease, which causes me to react to gluten, and Crohn's Disease, with which I have various "trigger foods" that cause symptoms including severe abdominal pain, bloating, and urgency. I am not entirely certain what all of these trigger foods are, but some seem to include excessive sugar, oil/fat, and spiciness. When I was little, my reaction to gluten from Celiac Disease was usually vomiting, but since my Crohn's diagnosis I have had difficulty identifying the cause of any gastroenterological symptoms I experience.
If you indicated that you have celiac disease or are gluten intolerant, how sensitive are you to gluten?
Moderate: React sometimes
Does your college handle food restrictions as you expected they would when you selected your school?
Not at all what I expected
Check all boxes that apply to your college experience
My school has only a few dining halls, Ability to feed me is fairly consistent across dining halls, I have at least one safe dining hall, but avoid some dining halls, I do not have sufficient options at any dining halls, Ability to eat well was a small part of my college selection process, I asked alot of questions before I came but the reality was different
Have you had a reaction from eating in your dining hall?
Describe each incident. How did your school respond?
I frequently found myself in pain/other mild reactions after eating in the dining hall during the fall semester, so I contacted the dietician. I described how I usually went about eating in the dining halls (reading labels + guessing safest food line) and she apologized for the experience and mentioned some remaining cross-contamination possibilities present with this approach. She put me in contact with the chef at one of the smaller dining halls, and he walks me through the food options whenever I visit and washes his hands + changes gloves before serving me from the back. My reactions have decreased significantly in frequency, so I suspect any remaining ones are due to unknown Crohn's triggers rather than Celiac. I also had an incident not involving reaction where I was served the wrong meal (vegan instead of allergen free, 2/3 items contained gluten third was cauliflower) but I caught the error and returned to the line. The first staff member did not seem to understand the significance of celiac disease, but another staff member helped me out by finding the right meal and verifying with the chef. I also discussed this incident with the dietitian, who was apologetic and commented that it may be time for the staff to receive another food allergy and celiac disease training.
Please describe your meal plan for each year there so far. Include if your school required any of these decisions. If you are eating in a greek house or other club type arrangement include that as well.
First year: Basic meal plan included in my housing plan, very difficult to opt out of. Includes 12 meal swipes per week and 300 "flex dollars" per semester (which can be spent in on campus restaurants and campus markets - great options in markets!)
Did you register your food restrictions with your students disabilities office for accommodations? If yes, describe.
Yes, I primarily registered for issues relating to my Crohn's Disease but also mentioned my food restrictions and Celiac at the meeting. I successfully received housing accommodations in that I was placed in a building with a kitchen (for entire building but I clean area I use) and near the dining hall with an allergen free station (more on this later)
Are there resources (nutritionists, chefs, peer support groups) to help ensure you are receiving safe nutritious food? If yes, describe.
It wasn't automatically offered, but I work with the chefs in one dining hall to ensure I am receiving safe food. They are wonderful and very helpful, but the variety is limited. When most of the food in the main "lines" is not gluten free, the default is plain chicken and some rice/vegetables. This was fine at the beginning, but it gets old fast.
If you were in charge of your school's dining, what changes would you implement to better feed students with your food restrictions? Would your school be open to these suggestions?
The food could be a lot better in general. I'm not sure what the problem is there because the chefs seem great but a lot of options are mediocre at best. I think the first change would be to rotate the foods at the allergen-free station (it's the same every day, lunch and dinner, and I don't particularly like what they serve to begin with) so it can be a viable option for eating at every day. It'd also be nice to have one food line be allergen free to begin with, since a lot of dishes seem like they could be modified fairly easily and this would limit cross-contamination in the lines. This happens by chance every now and then anyways, but it would be nice if it were consistent. I would also make the allergen-free fridge and toaster more accessible. I don't even use either, but a good friend of mine also with celiac has and it is a hassle to get servers to leave the line, retrieve or toast items, and return them. She has also discussed having student input on the products stocked in the fridge and dietary seemed open to it, but it does not seem this has happened yet.
Describe your biggest challenge with managing your food restrictions at college and how you deal with it
The biggest challenge for me was probably figuring out how to get fed consistently. When I started having issues I got very paranoid about eating in the dining halls and avoided them, sometimes skipping meals because it sounded better than going to one of them. I contacted the dietitian about what things were concerning me so they may be improved eventually, and was set up with my current system of talking to the chef at foothill.
Did your food restrictions impact your housing decision? How? Is there a certain dorm you recommend for those with food restrictions? Why?
Yes, I requested a room near the one dining hall with an allergen-free station and a building with a kitchen. I would recommend any dorm building with a kitchen since the allergen free station isn't all that great but cooking my own food from time to time keeps me sane.
What's your advice for managing the dining halls with your food restrictions? Favorite dining hall(s)? Any dining halls to avoid?
If possible, get to know the chefs or some students who work in the dining halls and can give you valuable information. I can't say I like any of them, but I suppose foothill is my favorite due to my connections there. Avoid anything fried or grilled.
What's your advice for eating in the dorm with your food restrictions? Favorite snacks? Places that deliver?
If you have favorite foods you will miss, make sure you are in a building with a kitchen. Bear market has some great frozen meals to stock up on with flex dollars and microwave when you need a break from dining hall food. The crossroads allergen free station is not all it's cracked up to be so living near this dining hall isn't a super high priority, but it's good to know that option exists. You can order postmates from Jules pizza or pupusas from platano (don't get anything fried there). Racha's and Berkeley Thai house are also great. It's kind of hard to get to with no car, but Mariposa Baking Co is absolutely amazing. Safeway and Trader Joe's are easy to take the bus or even walk to, I go weekly with my roommate.
What do you recommend new students with food restrictions do before school starts? Or when they first arrive?
Get in contact with housing if you would like to request a building with a kitchen or a roommate with similar food allergies (that's an option! I didn't do it because I had a friend coming but it sounded cool). Scout out the area for restaurants you make like. Get into contact with dietary and/or disabled students program so you have somewhere to go if there are any issues.
What's your advice on managing the party scene with your food restrictions?
I'm not that into parties, but when I go to social events with food I typically bring some snacks or plan to eat before/after. Sometimes, if the event is small enough, the person running it will bring something I can eat from the restaurant. (we have a few pizza and thai places for example with gluten free options)
Grade your college town area for feeding people with your food restrictions
Explain your grade. What are your favorite places to eat in town or foodshop?
We don't have nearly as many places as I expected, but the ones we do have are really really good. My favorite place is Mariposa Baking Company. Some other places include Jules Thin Crust Pizza, Sliver Pizzeria, Racha's Cafe, Berkeley Thai House, Toss Noodle Bar, and Platano.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think I mentioned it once before but it's worth noting that the online menus are NOT ACCURATE (in person usually is though). I have seen things labeled as contains gluten when they don't, not labeled as having it when they do, and dining halls just having radically different things than the online menu says they have.