Undergrad helps ensure allergy safety for fellow students


Rob Le Cates

Mahveen Arshi, a graduate student studying computer technology, serves chicken sandwiches and tater tots at Thomas Dining Aug. 29. Starting the 22-23 school year, Taylor Dining will only be open for breakfast and lunch. Because Taylor had the allergen meal choices, Thomas Dining now offers allergy-friendly meals.

Adriana Hernandez-Santana, Feature Junior Editor

Panther Dining Undergrad Assistant Sam Mazzocco speaks about Eastern’s allergy free food program that is available to students in all dining facilities, as well as how he ensures every meal is safe for students. 

When it comes to having food related allergies, finding safe meals can prove to be difficult. When students with dietary restrictions come to Eastern, they need to be able to eat foods that are not only safe for them, but taste good as well. 

In order for this to happen, Sam Mazzocco works alongside the cooks on campus to ensure that every meal is perfect for every student. 

“The allergen friendly line looks to cater to any of the big eight allergies, so things like soy, egg, shellfish, normal fish, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts and gluten,” Mazzocco said. 

Regardless of these most common food allergies, referred to as the Big Eight, Mazzocco and his team also help regulate food sensitivities. Making sure to stay away from abrasive ingredients, phosphates and monosodium glutamates.

When asked about how the allergy safe program came into fruition, Mazzocco said the student body plays a big role in the foods being served. 

“The incoming student population comes from all over the country, and with that comes different flavors, tastes and different cultural preferences for foods and different needs,” Mazzocco said. “I think EIU strives to be somewhere that encompasses and accommodates all people, no matter what their background or dietary preferences or needs are.”

When it comes to determining what the meals should be, Mazzocco said he has to look at what foods are being shipped to the school and create different lists of allergy free safe foods from there.

“I am there as much as I can be for our students,” Mazzocco said. “That’s probably my number one goal of my job or my job function is to be there for students and take out the thinking for students while they’re making their food choices. Students generally aren’t here to think about where I’m going to get my next meal or how I’m going to meet my dietary needs. Leave that to the dining team and me.”

Finding out which foods are allergy friendly or not can be difficult for students. 

One way that has worked well thus far is students reaching out to Mazzocco asking for help. 

“If you have more severe allergies, I definitely worked to be open with [the students],” Mazzocco said. “I communicate with them to make sure that their dietary needs are met.”

Although his job does help students find the best foods for them, Mazzocco still encourages students to have a balance of eating healthy and eating what you enjoy. 


Adriana Hernandez-Santana can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].