Maneuvering Your Meal Plan While In College
Maneuvering Your Meal Plan While In College
Can you believe it, your child is ready for college! You are concerned about their food allergies, special diets or food preferences. What should you do? Can they still go away to college?
The answer is YES!
Most colleges and universities have a disabled student center, as well as most have an on-staff dietician. It is imperative that you contact both departments at least a year in advance, so you do not have any surprises. You want to be sure that the colleges or universities that your child is applying to can accommodate their special diets. Even with community colleges, call ahead and confirm that they can assist your child, if they are there during a meal time, or even if they might want a beverage or a snack.
Students with anaphylactic concerns can be often be offered an off-campus, single occupancy apartment, to be sure there is zero cross-contamination.
For students with allergies or special diets, who can still eat at the regular student food facilities, many schools designate details on their menu’s website, of foods that are considered safe to consume, based on dietary issues.
College chefs and workers are very used to food allergies or special diets. More and more students are developing allergies and intolerances to so many foods. Students must be very specific when ordering or picking out their food. Warning labels of the top 8 allergens, by law, since 2006, must be marking in the ingredient list or on the label somewhere. Many labels say: Contains: and then lists the allergens. The top 8 allergens are: Milk/Dairy, Wheat, Eggs, shellfish, fish, soy, peanuts and tree nuts. Some people carry cards with them listing their allergies. It is imperative to get the person taking your order to repeat it back to you. Mistakes are made, always check food, for obvious mistakes first. If you are unsure of ingredients, ask for an ingredient list. Often at a university, the chef will come out from the back and talk to the student, to be sure of no cross contamination or mistakes.
After you contact the school’s departments, ask for menus and locations that best fit your child’s dietary needs. Some menus are posted online. Also, look into any on-campus or nearby grocery stores, where your child can purchase ready-made foods or foods that they can cook, as well as fruits and vegetables. Check if there are cooking appliances in the dorm or a suite or if they have an on campus apartment, as another alternative to meal preparation. Investigate all of the choices at all of the schools that your child plans to apply to for admission. CALL AHEAD!
In case of an emergency, it is imperative to know where the nearest hospital is located, in regards to the university that your child might attend. Find out protocol if there is an emergency. Also, find out the hours of the on campus health center and where it is located on campus. It is equally important to find out if there is a 24-hour pharmacy nearby. Do some research about good doctors also close to the university, in case your child should need a physician while away from home.
Roommates and suite-mates should be alerted to any food allergies or special dietary needs your child might have.
If your child caries an Epi-Pen, all of the roommates and suite-mates should practice how to use it and know when to use it and when not. You can buy allergy alerts to put on backpacks, phone, bags, suit cases, purses, etc. Your child should also have your phone number listed as ICE (In Case of Emergency), as well as give it to a few roommates. If your child is unable to speak or unlock their phone, there is no way to reach you! A sticker with ICE on the back of the phone is a good idea, too. If they have an allergy, you can order zipper pulls necklaces, bracelets, etc. to alert emergency personnel and those around you that an epi-pen is inside and/ or that your child is allergic to a certain food or has environmental allergies.
Here are a few items:
Do not be afraid to call or email various departments all over campus to get all of the information that you require, many months prior to your child attending. Remember during the summer, there could be less personnel available to help. It is best to make your calls and emails from August until June, when you will have better success reaching someone to help you. Some schools will not talk to parents, only to their student, even if they are still a minor. Be sure your child informs the school (there is a place online) that you are legally allowed to communicate with them. Sometimes you both can be by the phone and your child can inform them, that their parent is there and the student gives permission to the school to discuss anything, or certain things with the parent.
Barrie Silberberg is the author of The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide To Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) And Others Interventions. Her web site is: www.puttingyourkidsfirst.com
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2017 Magazine