CyGuide: ISU Dining accommodates students’ allergies


Photo: Huiling Wu/ Iowa State Daily

Jordan Forster, senior in elementary education, pours out tomato soup Monday at Hawthorne market. ISU dining centers prepare several special meals for vegetarians.

Daniel Bush

At home, students can prepare their own meal and maintain the food they eat. In college, some students that live on-campus don’t have that luxury, but ISU Dining has provided a solution to that problem.

“We are pretty much designated as the special diets facility, so if they had any questions or issues, [students] would just contact us directly,” said Jeremy Bowker, sous chef currently involved in the special diets program at the Union Drive Marketplace.

To get into contact with ISU Dining, students should call Sue Philbrook, food service supervisor at the Union Drive Marketplace, and set up a time with them to get started in the program to find a meal plan that works for their dietary needs.

This program can be offered to any student who has a meal plan; however, there are a couple other requirements that students need to meet before getting started. A waiver must be signed and a doctor’s note needs to be presented to the facility about the issue.

“We try to basically accommodate for more of the big eight: soy, dairy, seafood, peanut, tree nut, wheat, celiac [and eggs],” Bowker said. “[But] with the allergies constantly changing, and people showing up on a daily basis and there is something new … it’s just a matter of adapting to it.”

A tool that ISU Dining uses to help accommodate students is Net Nutrition. Net Nutrition is an online program that allows students to access the website and can view the menu of each ISU Dining facility.

“We offer a lot of products just with any dining facility that kind of meet those criteria,” Bowker said.

Students can see all the nutrition values, such as calories, fats, vitamins, protein, sodium and ingredients. They can even gather up all their food choices and look at their meal as a whole.

“They have a pretty wide variety of food there. I think all the dining centers have gluten-free food,” said Brett Sullivan, junior in mechanical engineering.

Sullivan suffers from celiac disease. Celiac disease is a reaction that hurts the lining inside the small intestine and doesn’t allow certain parts of food to absorb. Gluten is the ingredient that can’t be absorbed.

“It’s really tasty. A lot of times it seems better than the other food,” Sullivan said.

The newest addition at ISU Dining is a designated area for the chefs to cook the special dietary meals. This kitchen expansion was set up last semester, Philbrook said.

“I think it’s really good, better than it was before,” Philbrook said. “We’ve had students [who] decided to come here instead of another [school] because of our program.”

Students who have food allergies struggle at times due to the risk of what they eat.

“People nowadays are, really, allergic to a lot more things, or they are finding out they are allergic to a lot more things,” Bowker said. “On a daily basis, the whole concept of allergies and celiac in general, it’s just growing so big.”

About 30 students are involved in the program now. However, ISU Dining is willing to take on more students and is ready to do so.

“There hasn’t really been an issue yet where we have been, like, ‘Sorry, we can’t help you at all,” Bowker said.

“I’m kind of used to not having a lot of options,” Sullivan said. “They are very aware of how they can’t contaminate the food. Overall, I feel like they did a very good job with [the program].”