Imagine having allergies so severe that everything you touched put you at risk for a life threatening reaction. For some students at Bellarmine, this fear is part of their daily lives.

Bellarmine student Kelsey Gentile is allergic to gluten. She said appreciates the allergy section in Bellarmine’s University Dining Hall (UDH). However, she said the choices were usually hit or miss.

“Sometimes it was really good, but other times, not so much,” Gentile said.

Although UDH does have a corner dedicated to students with allergy needs, it doesn’t cater to everyone. The corner is great for students with gluten allergies, but students say what really helps in UDH is the staff’s willingness to whip something up that they can eat.

“I usually eat off campus or bring a salad to school. Since I don’t want to eat chips and fries all day, and the fresh salads are expensive, and in my opinion not very good, I tend to look elsewhere for snacks,” Gentile said.

Gentile’s case is not uncommon. Bellarmine’s dining staff works with students to get know them and their specific allergy needs. Steve Santo, the general manager of UDH, says that they try to meet with students individually to help better accommodate them.

Santo said he suggests students who struggle with finding something they can eat on campus to meet with his staff.

“We can go over what we can do for them and know who to ask when you have questions,” Santo said.

Santo explained his Sodexo staff knows how to handle specially- made food to avoid mix-ups with potentially dangerous ingredients. This protocol is especially important because allergies can often be life threatening for students.

“We make sure our staff is trained to avoid cross contamination and make sure allergen-free foods are handled separately,” Santo said.

Santo said he hopes to have another late-night meeting in the Palio for students with dietary concerns so they can find a way to accommodate them best.

According to the Sodexo website, there are square labels on the menus to show whether a meal is vegan or vegetarian. Their site mostly recommends each individual talk with the staff about food allergies.

“We want to meet one-on-one with all of our customers who have individual dining needs to ensure that your dining experience is safe, delicious, and social,” the site reads.

It seems that much more could be done to make campus dining more accessible for people who are vegan, vegetarian or have specific food allergies.

The food carts from Simply-to-go and the restaurants in Horrigan offer limited options for those who have food allergies. Einstein Bros. Bagels only has soy milk as an alternative to dairy milk, and in the canisters set out for black coffee orders, there is no self-serve soy.

“I think having gluten free bagels at Einstein’s would be stellar,” Gentile said.

Bellarmine has made many improvements over the years to accommodate students with allergies and dietary restrictions. As food services continue to move in the right direction, we suggest they keep these options in the same price range as unrestricted food options and allow even more options in UDH so students with allergies or dietary restrictions are not left unable to eat on campus.

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