By Amy Szablak
For Stonehill students with dietary restrictions, eating in the dining hall can be difficult, even dangerous.
“A lot of times I still feel limited to the salad bar and the deli,” said Nicole Gilcoine, a sophomore at Stonehill. “Cross contamination is too high in many areas of the commons.”
Gilcoine, 19, has had celiac disease since 2012. This means that she cannot eat any foods with gluten in them.
Gilcoine is one of many Stonehill students who have a dietary restriction.
“There is one-percent of the student population here at Stonehill that have some sort of allergy to food,” said Constance Bearden, Stonehill’s executive chef. “That is huge when you look at the general population.”
The amount of students who have food allergies is not unique to Stonehill, though.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education, also known as F.A.R.E., an estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies.
F.A.R.E. reports that someone is sent to the emergency department every three minutes with a food allergy reaction. This translates to more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year, according to F.A.R.E.
Because of this, Stonehill College is taking steps to create a safer dining experience for students with dietary restrictions.
One of these steps is the new “Simple Servings” station in the dining hall.
The goal of Simple Servings is to “create a resident dining platform to allow students with food allergies, celiac, or gluten intolerance to select safe meals in a convenient format, allowing them to maintain social interaction without being singled out,” according to ScienceDirect.com.
Simple Servings is going to a serve a variety of meals that are free of the top eight allergens in the United States, as well as gluten. These allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.
These allergens account for 90 percent of all food-allergy reactions, according to F.A.R.E.
Kim Pierce, the dietician at Stonehill, said that she is eager for the Simple Servings program to begin at Stonehill.
“I am most excited for there to be a consistent, comfortable place for many of the students with dietary restrictions to order their meals from,” she said. “The feedback so far has been all positive.”
Michael Ferrante, 19, of Rivier, Massachusetts, said the new station in the dining hall will be a plus for him.
Ferrante, a sophomore at Stonehill, is allergic to tree nuts, peanuts, raw fruit and raw veggies. He said that if he comes in contact with these foods, he experiences severe stomach pains and possible vomiting.
Ferrante said the Simple Servings station will help him eat better and safely.
“I will definitely have variety in my diet and being more confident that I am okay with what I’m eating,” he said.
Although the goal of Simple Servings is to provide safe and healthy food for students with dietary restrictions, it is not limited to those students.
“It will also be a great place for athletes to boost their energy intake,” Pierce said. “Additionally, as the dishes will be simple, picky eaters may feel comfortable eating there.”
Paige Doane, 19, a sophomore at Stonehill, said that she is conscious of eating healthy and finds it hard to get healthy options daily in the cafeteria.
“With Simple Servings, I’ll have a guaranteed healthy meal every day,” she said. “Eating healthy is important to me, and I think this station will allow me to eat healthier every day.”
The Simple Servings station is set to begin in January 2015 and will be where the vegetarian station currently is.