BY MELISSA STANO
Sodexo, which is Franciscan University of Steubenville’s primary food-providing company, has recently added a section to the cafeteria entitled “Simple Servings.” Formerly a salad-making station on the top level of Antonian Hall, the area now serves food designed to meet the needs of students with various food allergies.
“Today’s generation of students are much more aware of healthy eating,” said Sodexo chef Marlanea Wheaton.
Close to 60 students reported having special dietary needs last year, and Sodexo estimated that this number would only increase. The number of students with special dietary needs is growing across the country, as food allergy prevalence affects approximately five percent of the population. Sodexo’s desire to create meals reflecting students’ dietary needs resulted in the Simple Servings section.
“We wanted a venue that would allow students to feel secure in their food choices,” said Wheaton about the decision to integrate Simple Servings into the cafeteria.
Franciscan is one of 40 universities that have such a section. Wheaton said that the overall student response at Franciscan has been overwhelmingly positive, and the Simple Servings section has become a popular choice for students both with and without food allergies.
“I developed a gluten allergy over the summer, and I was worried about how difficult it would be when I came back to school this year to eat right,” said Franciscan junior Rebecca Gagnon, “But having the healthy section makes it a lot easier for me to just go and eat.”
Wheaton also said that all the meal choices created in this section are prepared in separately labeled ovens and cookware, so as to avoid any cross-contamination between possible allergens.
“A lot of students not only have allergies, but have life-threatening allergies to things like peanuts,” she added, “so we really want to make sure to avoid any issues and eliminate any worries from students so that they can confidently know that their food is safe for them.”
The food choices are all allergen-free, gluten free, and also free of seven of the most common food allergens, which include soybeans, peanuts and eggs. Wheaton attended training classes over the summer through Allertrain U to learn how to properly create meals that fit the special requirements and how to reduce the risk of cross contamination. She says that any chefs who work in Simple Servings are also required to undergo training.
Sodexo hopes to expand the Simple Servings section to all of the universities it serves next year, and is constantly creating new meal ideas for the section in order to cater to different types of eaters.