Students coordinate with dining halls on food allergies

Mary Ellen Greenburg, Staff Photographer

Students with food allergies still have options when it comes to eating in Eastern’s dining halls, though they still have to be vigilant when living away from home.

Julia Spencer, a freshman history major, has a banana allergy.

“Sometimes, (the dining halls) have banana pudding, and I see that I’m like, ‘Oh, vanilla pudding.’ So I have to be careful,” Spencer said. “I can’t recognize the taste anymore, so I won’t know until I have a reaction.”

When making the transition to living away from home for the first time, Spencer said she had to take her allergy into consideration.

“I’ll get a smoothie and not realize it had banana in it, and I’ll have a reaction, and I can call my mom and she will advise me want to do,” she said.

Because her symptoms have started to evolve, Spencer has had to be more careful about what she eats.

At Eastern, there are special accommodations that can be made to help students with allergies.

“(We) make sure they know where they can go that won’t cause them problems. We do quite a bit of labeling,” said Mark Hudson, director of Housing and Dining.

One of the options Eastern offers is a special diet with the cooperation of Taylor Dining Hall. Students can turn in a special diet request form to Housing and Dining. Then, they will be contacted by a graduate student in nutrition about their food requirements. The graduate student will figure out a menu for the student with a special diet based on their needs.

“We try to make them as happy as possible and get them items that they need,” said Sheila Poffinbarger, unit director for Taylor Hall Dining Center.

The menu is given to the cooks in Taylor Dining Hall.

“We have them swipe in and come and get their allergen-free food,” Poffinbarger said. “We like to work close with (students). We try to give them options, too.”

Heather Vaupel, a junior foreign languages major with a gluten intolerance, studied abroad in Guatemala. She explained to her host mom what she could and could not have, and the host mom was able to help Vaupel.

“I had to tell my host mom that I had to be gluten-free, and she was able to cater to me,” Vaupel said. “For breakfast when everyone else got to try the new things I just had to have corn tortillas.”


Mary Ellen Greenburg can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].