When Brianna Wolin started University of Michigan in 2012, being a college freshman was the least of her concerns. As a student with Celiac Disease, Type 1 Diabetes and food allergies, eating in a dining hall would pose big challenges. She was told that they would have difficulty meeting her dietary needs, and the university suggested she live off campus.
Fast forward to 2016. This Ann Arbor campus has started a new partnership with the Food Allergy Research and Education organization. FARE is the "leading national organization working on behalf of 15 million Americans with food allergy" issues. University of Michigan was selected as one of only 10 schools in the country to start a pilot program addressing food safety issues in dining halls and campuses. These universities and colleges will be collaborating and helping to define the best practices for all campuses, hopefully changing the future of dining for students with food allergies across the country. *
Lindsey Haas, dietitian for U of M dining services, gave me a tour of the South Quad dining hall. Walking through the cafeteria felt like walking through a fine dining restaurant. This is the intended impression, as the hall is set up with 14 "micro" restaurants, allowing students to choose from burgers and fries to middle-eastern fare and more. U of M hires classically trained chefs, all certified by the American Culinary Federation, to create their menus and oversee the cooking staff.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Clegg
While the decor is astounding, it is the food safety steps they've taken that are even more impressive. Each food station is self-sufficient and most food is made to order, allowing students with food allergies to personalize their meal. All prepared dishes use icons for vegan, vegetarian, MHealthy, GF and Halal, when appropriate.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Photography, Austin Thomason
To learn more about their dedicated gluten-free secured room and how they take steps towards allergen safety across campus, read more on my blog