Schubert: Does Rowan meet diverse dietary needs?

Bowl Life is one of the few restaurants located in the Student Center with diverse food options. - Contributor / Ava Schubert

Rowan has a plethora of food options for students to choose from, but does that include students with allergies and restrictions?

In today’s world, food allergens are probably the most widely recognized they’ve ever been. It’s the age of oat milk, almond milk, tofu, fake bread; the list goes on. While there are various restaurants keeping up with the change and adjusting their menus accordingly (along with upping the price of said alternatives), are college campuses getting the memo? 

I’m not saying there are no options, because that isn’t the case. While I am not familiar with every dining facility here at Rowan or every food they offer in the dining halls, I do know Rowan offers things such as salads, acai bowls, smoothies, and a good number of vegetarian options. While these are all great, when it comes to more satiating options, I feel like those decrease drastically, especially for those with allergies relating to dairy, wheat, soy, and tree nuts. I also saw that they implemented a service called “Dietician’s Corner,” which you can find more information about on Rowan’s Gourmet Dining website. The premise behind this addition is to offer different nutrition services and programming regarding dietary restrictions. 

Individuals with celiac disease in particular cannot consume gluten without risking their health, and even have to worry about something as minute as cross contamination from places where food is prepared. Having to ask every restaurant if they have knowledge about allergen protocol or if they can cater to your allergen is not only fairly awkward most of the time because you don’t want to be a burden, but it also feels like pulling teeth at times if the person has no idea.

A majority of the food places located on Rowan Boulevard aren’t the most versed in food allergen procedures, and I would say the same goes for restaurants in the student center. It’s not the most ideal situation, especially if you are a commuter and don’t have the option of cooking a meal in a conveniently located house within a one-mile radius.

I know that this experience is not just unique to Rowan University; college campuses all over have to consider this issue and do better. With student bodies continuing to increase in size, the best thing to do for the sake of safety and well-being is to increase food options. How exactly can Rowan improve? I would say one of the most important steps would be to make the allergen information for the food items provided readily available online and in person, which would save time for students and workers. Having designated allergen free areas should also be considered. This way, the risk for cross contamination is essentially zero, and students don’t have to question whether or not the food they are eating contains any harmful ingredients. And of course, encouraging and responding to student feedback.

Experiences relating to food options are, of course, different for every student, and factors can contribute to that: like whether you live on campus, commute, rely heavily on dining out, grocery shopping, etc. If you are a freshman who lives on campus and doesn’t have a car, options for you may be very limited. Rowan does have two top nine allergen free restaurants located in the student center, which is a big deal, but the menu is much smaller compared to the other restaurants. Within the one restaurant, which is called Bowl Life, you can actually purchase allergen free items from their mini market they provide. There is a good assortment of snacks, drinks, and some lunch/dinner options. 

Implementing these changes are not just important– they are essential in order to have a safe environment that all students can enjoy stress-free.

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