College and Food Allergies
As many highschool students are doing right now, I have been doing a lot of research regarding different colleges and universities I am considering applying to next fall. I am a Junior, so I have definitely felt pressured lately to start making big decisions regarding my future, career, and especially college selection. While I am considering many different things when choosing the right school for me, I have honestly thought a lot about my food allergies and what the situation will be like once I move out of the house and go off to college. I am really nervous to move out and live on my own at college in regards to my food allergies. I already have a lot of anxiety around my food allergies and getting possible allergic reactions, but moving out and not having my parents around will make things even more difficult and nerve wracking. I get a lot of anxiety from even just going out to dinner with my friends, as I am always worried about having allergic reactions. So, going off to college will definitely create a lot of anxiety for me because I won’t have my parents there in case I do have a reaction. However, I know that I will be fine because I am responsible and assertive when it comes to my allergies. I still definitely wanted to do some research and see which colleges handled food allergies best, and how different schools went about doing it. I compiled a list of some schools that have handled food allergies well, and how they have gone about it. I also included some tips from Spokin regarding going to college and managing food allergies. I think this will be helpful for Juniors and even Sophomores, who right now, are thinking a lot about college and where they will apply.
5 steps to finding a food allergy friendly school (according to Spokin):
Food allergies are considered a disability under the ADA, meaning food allergic students are guaranteed accommodations at publicly-funded and most private schools.
Schools are required to make some minimum accommodations, but you can also seek options such as living in a dorm that has a food allergy friendly dining hall.
A great place to look to start is in the Student Life or Student Experience section of a school's website. Here you will find details about housing and dining, student resources, and health and safety services on campus.
2. Disability Services
First point of contact; Disability services will help facilitate living and dining around your allergies as well as connect you with a registered dietician if the school has one.
Ask about getting a 504 Plan (a written strategy that provides a food allergic student with special food allowances, emergency action plans, stop-the-clock testing, etc.) and find out what accommodations are currently in place for food allergic students.
Be sure to have the right documentation. Come prepared with a current note from a doctor about the student's food allergy, any potential for a severe or life-threatening reaction, as well as a list of specific allergens. The documentation should be from within the last two years.
3. Dining services
Introduce yourself to the person in charge of dining services (director, manager, head of dining) or the school's registered dietitian.
Ask where to find allergy-free options. Some schools like Stanford University, Wellesley College and Kent State have designated allergen-free dining halls (allergens vary).
Ask to meet the chefs and understand how and where allergy-free options are stored and prepared. Building a strong relationship with the head chef is the best way to get a variety of allergy-free meals.
During a campus visit, be sure to visit dining halls to check if allergens are clearly labeled.
4. Residential Services
Tell your roommates and RA about your allergies, share emergency action plans, and educate them on how to use an EpiPen or auto-injector.
Know your living options and the location in relation to campus dining. Look for dorms that are closer to allergy-friendly dining options.
5. Day to Day
Educate your friends
Tell your professors
HANDLES FOOD ALLERGIES WELL:
Top allergy rated colleges and quotes from students (according to Spokin):
CORNELL UNIVERSITY: “I never felt worried walking into the dining hall. All the foods were clearly labeled containing each allergen. This made me feel safe knowing I would be informed of what I was consuming. If I wanted further clarification, the chefs would have the ingredients with them to show the labels. The places to eat on campus followed the same policy."
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: “I had a great experience dealing with my allergy while in college. I was able to easily eat in most dining halls after meeting with food services/staff in the dining halls at the beginning of freshman year. Evanston has tons of safe restaurants.”
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: “Vanderbilt is FANTASTIC for allergies!! There is an allergy program where you can have your meals prepared separately and safely for you. I am the founder and president of the student allergy advisory council at Vanderbilt, and in fall of 2018 we are opening a top-8 free cafe! I could not say enough wonderful things about Vanderbilt!”
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: “Waitstaff was quick to provide gluten free options and were attentive in asking questions about additional allergens.”
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: "The University of Michigan offers tremendous labeling in the dining halls so you know what is in every dish. They were years ahead of other schools in making everything clear. There’s also a tremendous amount of safe places to eat off campus!”
FARE college program: FARE launched the College Food Allergy Program in January 2014 with the goal of developing a comprehensive program to improve the safety and quality of life for college students with food allergies. The program offers resources for students and parents, as well as colleges and universities.
FARE distributes resources to the nearly 600 colleges and universities that are members of the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS).
Annually staff at more than 375 colleges receive FARECheck approved training through FARE’s partnership with Compass Group. This has resulted in over 6,300 college dining staff going through food allergy training.
The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), which boasts a membership of 3,000 college and university disability service professionals, partners with FARE to distribute resources and education to its members.
FARE has provided training to dining staff at over 350 colleges and universities.
Hundreds of campuses use free FARE resources for their dining halls.
Schools in the FARE college program: George Mason University, Wesleyan University, University of Virginia, University of Iowa, James Madison University, Michigan State University, Purdue University, Stanford University, University of Arizona, Texas A & M University, University of California Berkeley, University of Dayton, UMass Amherst, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, University of New Hampshire, University of Southern California, University of St. Thomas, Valparaiso University, and Minnesota State University Mankato