Kevin Pardo

"It is my hope that in the future, all students like myself will be able to have the necessary options for their meals." (Photo Courtesy of Tierney Hartnett)

At 11 years old I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease. My love for things like oreos, cookie dough ice cream and bagels had to stop because my body could no longer digest the protein food in gluten.

Though it was frustrating giving up any food that contained gluten and swapping it for safe version to eat, I never let it become an issue growing up. My mom would always make sure I had something filling to eat that would not make me feel sick.

It never became a big problem of cross-contamination or having little variety of options until I went off to college. After visiting Saint Peter’s and learning about the food options given, I felt confident coming in that I would always have something to eat.

I became well-informed with the purple plate section in the cafeteria and how they promised it would be free of the top seven allergens including gluten. After having been at the school for almost two years now, I have learned that promise was not exactly true.

Having celiac disease the main things I cannot eat are gluten, malt and barley. There have been times where the purple plate section had puffed barley as one of the options. That makes this section and meal no longer 100 percent safe for me and would most likely cause a reaction.

The most frustrating thing about the food at Saint Peter’s is the lack of options. Normal gluten free options are grilled meats, rice, potatoes and vegetables which are not exactly the most thrilling meal options to have everyday.

As someone who has to pay for a meal plan it would be nice to have more variety. I had expressed my concerns for not only myself but other students to Dean Anthony Skevakis, head of student life, and Cynthia Farabaugh, head of Sodexo at Saint Peter’s.

I had a one-on-one meeting with them discussing my concerns of cross contamination and how it would be nice to see more gluten free options in the cafeteria, Quickzone and Pete’s Place. The meeting felt informative for both parties and in the end I felt like I had made my point and things would be getting fixed. After the meeting they introduced a gluten-free section in Quickzone which has things such as pasta, cookies and crackers.

It was really nice to see that kind of impact being made, but some of the more important things I discussed have not been changed. It also started to feel like any time I brought up or another student brought up the need for any dietary restriction they did not want to fix the big problem just satisfy that one student.

Often when students want Kosher, Halal or dairy-free options, the quick response is “have that student come talk to us and we can make a meal for them separately.” Yes, that fixes that one student’s problem, but that does not fix the problem for other students who may not feel comfortable getting a one-on-one meal from the cafe.

Several students have addressed how students talked about how they want more meals that are adapted for more dietary restrictions. Never stating that there needs to be a whole menu changed, but constantly having a vegan, dairy-free and/or gluten-free options being offered that follows along with the “normal” options being served.

Several students have also made requests for Pete’s Place and QuickZone for things like a pizza with dairy-free cheese or no cheese at all. This had been requested at the most recent Presidential Open Forum, and the response was that there was sushi and curry options for students in Quickzone who choose to stay away from dairy and or other animal-based products.

While these can be considered a meal, those are sold using Munch Money, not meal swipes. For students who choose the 19 meal swipe plan it makes their options even more limited.

While the school does provide some options that are allergy, vegan and gluten friendly students are finding it somewhat hard to achieve more options and express their concerns.

As a student who lives on west campus I do have the option of cooking in my kitchen. That way I can make sure I am eating completely gluten-free meals. It makes me feel frustrated that I am paying close to two thousands dollars a semester for a meal plan that is very limited to what I can eat.

The way that things are handled for students also makes me concerned for those who are not the most comfortable having to get a special meal just for them. It seems as if by solving this problem students are just being singled out for medical or religious purposes regarding their meals.

It is my hope that in the future, all students like myself will be able to have the necessary options for their meals. But it would be nice to not have to put up such a fuss just to have a fulfilling meal.

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