MU has one-of-a-kind dining


Contributed photo

Students are able to order allergen-free food at the Clean Plate in the Grotto Commons dining hall.

Melanie Todd, Staff writer

Mercyhurst caters specifically to the students’ needs in a number of ways, especially when it comes to dietary concerns.

“Parkhurst has been offering allergen-friendly options since 2013. We incorporated a station with a self-serve area for those with less sensitive allergies, but also provided ways to address the needs of students with more severe allergies by meeting with the chef and her team to tailor a program that would meet the students’ needs,” said Dean Schoenfeldt, Parkhurst Dining Senior General Manager.

Parkhurst understands how intimidating it can be to have the added stress of food restrictions when coming to live on a college campus. The Grotto Commons allows Parkhurst to offer a better experience for these students.

“The changes in the renovations allow us the opportunity to get creative with how we approached this need for these students,” said Schoenfeldt. “As the population with allergies and food sensitivities grow, we need to look for ways to meet those students’ needs. We decided on this station design in order to be ahead of the industry and offer a more confident dining experience for those students.”

The renovations also helped encompass a greater number of food allergies that affect a growing number of students.

“This area is a self-contained, chef-attended station that addresses seven of the eight major allergens as identified by the FDA (eggs, dairy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts and milk). The only allergen that is difficult to eliminate is soy, but we do try to meet this need as well. There is also an extensive self-serve area for snacks and drinks,” Schoenfeldt said.

Mercyhurst is very innovative in its approach to challenges that students face.

“At this time, this is the only school in the area that offers this style of dining for allergen-sensitive students,” said Schoenfeldt. “There are some programs in other universities outside of our region that are doing this successfully. We partnered with our corporate food safety director, Bill Moore, to aid with the design to ensure we could meet the majority of the needs at this station.”

The new and improved dining facilities at Mercyhurst are a bonus to incoming students looking at the school. However, for a student with dietary concerns, the new facilities could be a tiebreaker when choosing between schools.

“It was in partnership with the school to try and create a differentiator in dining that could attract more students to the Mercyhurst campus,” Schoenfeldt said.