Make The Dining Hall The First Stop on Your College Tour

It's finally time to start figuring out where you want to spend your college career. You are starting to fill out applications and hit the road to visit some nearby campuses. You envision attending a big football game, seeing the inside of a dorm room and learning about the prestige of their research programs. But before you get ahead of yourself, you need to add learning about the college dining hall to the top of your list.

Packing up and moving to college is stressful enough but for students with food allergies this can add a whole other dimension. That is why it is critical to your success at college to learn more about what the schools have to offer in terms of food allergy needs. Doing this research prior to applying will enable you to make a more educated decision on which school will be right for your lifestyle.

How to Make College a Food Safe Environment

Add these tips to your college planning list to make this journey a more successful, safe and rewarding experience:

  • Food Services - Be certain to research the food services, meal plans and dining options at the university. Take the time to contact the food service manager to ask questions with regard to allergy protocol, food options, and how special dietary needs are handled. Find out if there are key personnel in the dining halls for you to speak with once enrolled to ensure you can get the proper food items. Learn about any facilities that may allow for you to cook your own meals, store your own foods or order specialty items. While visiting, be sure to stop in and take a first-hand look at what the dining halls have to offer. This will help you to establish a comfort level with the idea of attending that school. Many universities around the country currently have dining halls on campus that are specifically designed to meet the needs of students with food allergies. Be sure to find out if this exists on the campuses you are considering.
  • Campus Living - Once you determine that you will be living on campus, be sure to find out about the dining/cooking options within each living community. While some dorms might feature a cooking space within a suite like setting, others might only have a community kitchen within the building. Find out which dorms allow refrigerators and microwaves within the rooms so that this may offer you additional ways to supplement your food. Use this information to help you choose the best living environment.
  • Educate/Share - Be sure you let your college roommate(s) and friends know about your food allergies. They should understand what you are allergic too, how to avoid cross-contamination and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Emergency Services - Be certain that you contact campus health services to learn about their protocols and experience with allergic reactions. Become familiar with where the local hospital is in case of an emergency situation. Allergy medication should be kept in a reliable place within your dorm room and in your bookbag at all times. Unfortunately, reactions can occur anywhere, so it is always important to be prepared.

Getting ready to go off to college requires spending time doing the research to find the right school for you.  And when it comes to food allergies, understanding what the school has to offer, will allow for a smoother and safer college experience.

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