Navigating dining halls with food allergies should be easier

Hailey Steidle, Contributing writer

For students with food allergies at Mercyhurst, meals can be a source of stress and anxiety. Issues such as limited options, risk of cross-contamination, lack of signage and little to no information provided about our food options can often times create a sense of concern or fear within students who are attempting to keep themselves healthy and safe on campus. Being a student with a severe gluten intolerance on campus comes with an everyday struggle of deciding what would be the safest option for me to eat. Sections that the school has set up specifically with allergies in mind like the Clean Plate in Grotto will often offer the same few options day after day. Things such as grilled meat and steamed vegetables, which often lack seasoning and variety, are the only safe options for students. Areas of Grotto like the dessert section will often have no options for anyone who is vegan, gluten-free, or nut-free. The same goes for the pizza station, Bravo, and the deli which all face the risk of cross-contamination for anyone with an allergy. Other places around campus, such as the dining hall in Ryan, unfortunately offer no safe options. The Anchor Express in Ryan where alternatives are available to students with allergies, prices are more expensive, like the almost $2.00 upcharge for anything gluten-free. A lack of signage around the dining halls can also create a sense of confusion when deciding what to eat because often times we are unaware of what is in the food we are eating, and we can’t tell if the food would even be safe for us to eat. As a junior who lives on campus, I am forced to have an unlimited meal plan for the entirety of my time spent living here. As a student who also lives with an allergy, I can’t eat the food that I have to pay for and instead I often find myself paying even more money in order to cook my own food in my apartment. I understand how difficult it may be to create options for those of us on campus who struggle with allergies, however, as someone who is also forced to pay for this unlimited meal plan I feel as though my money is going to waste because I cannot eat 90% of the food that is being offered to me. If I do want to attempt to get my money’s worth out of the meal plan, I run the constant risk of making myself sick. All students with allergies are left either taking the risk of compromising our health and wellness so we can eat what we are being forced to pay for or eating the same meals day after day and feeling as if we are wasting our money. Overall, allergy options around campus are either extremely limited or end up being difficult to locate which makes it almost impossible to eat what we are paying for.