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Liberty University students with dietary restrictions may find some comfort in the allergen-free station at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall referred to as “Simple Servings.”
This relatively new development with Liberty dining, still in the pilot stage of planning by Sodexo dining services, caters to the needs of students with seven of the eight most common allergens, including gluten, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and milk, according to Robin Quay, the registered dietician with Liberty.
“Initially, we just put in a gluten-free station. Then our corporation, Sodexo, was piloting this allergen-free station, and since we had already started, and since we are a fairly big university … they asked if we would pilot the Simple Servings station for the company,” Quay said.
Anaphylactic allergic reactions, according to family medical doctor Carrie Beaumont, are one of the most serious reactions that a person can have to an allergen.
“A true allergic reaction usually happens pretty quickly,” Beaumont said. “People can go from eating it to having itchy lips, breaking out in a rash, hives, feeling their throat close up to having their airways shut down in minutes. Often times, those people are calling 911 and trying to take Benadryl quickly. It can be a very scary thing.”
While those with food intolerances might not react as harshly or as immediately as those with allergies causing anaphylactic reactions, according to Beaumont, gluten and lactose intolerances can be just as bothersome.
“Gluten intolerance is a little bit different,” Beaumont said. “It affects my intestines, so the problem is that my reaction might be two to three days later. So, two to three days after I eat food with gluten in it, I will have a stomach ache and feel bad for a few weeks.”
According to Beaumont, even foods that have been prepared with the same cookware as something that an individual is allergic to can cause a severe reaction. Even small traces of peanut oil left on a pan can cause people with a peanut allergy to go into anaphylactic shock.
Those individuals who are already aware of their allergies and have severe, life-threatening reactions, should carry around an epinephrine pen in case they accidentally consume their allergen, Beaumont said.
The Simple Servings station, however, tries to eliminate all risks of cross contamination, according to Quay. Each chef goes through training in order to better serve students with allergies, and then every pot, pan and utensil is cleaned and separated according to what it is supposed to prepare.
“We have to make sure that we keep everything separate from the other foods that are being prepared, because even a crumb of wheat can affect someone who has a gluten intolerance,” Quay said.
Before Simple Servings was introduced as a food station at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall, many students with food allergies and intolerances had to choose their meals very carefully, according to Liberty senior Darren Boyd.
“I felt kind of cornered by the options when I went to eat at the (Reber-Thomas Dining Hall),” Boyd said. “Sometimes, my dietary restrictions aren’t in line with what they’re serving on a daily basis, so I had a really hard time choosing what to eat.”
Eating from Simple Servings and making a meal plan with dietician Quay is not reserved only for those students who have food allergies, though, according to Quay.
“Most of the people, interestingly enough, do not have allergies,” Quay said. “They just like that the food is really simply prepared, that it’s made with basic ingredients. They feel that it’s higher quality and healthier than the other foods in the dining hall.”
Those students wanting to make a better diet based off what Liberty University serves are welcomed to contact Quay via phone at 434-592-6166, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to discuss their needs.