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OSU dining services cooks up allergy safe food

Sarah Stemen / Oller reporter

When eating at various campus dining locations, Ohio State has made an effort to offer options that meet all allergy concerns.

Mark Newton, the executive chef at OSU, said he received positive feedback from parents of students with food allergies.

“We made it easy, and from what I’m hearing from parents is we’re known as the best university for (food) allergens,” Newton said. “(Parents said) ‘You guys are the only ones that take it to heart and try to do a good job.'”

Newton was striving to have the top food allergy program “because we’re OSU and we should have the best,” he said.

When incoming freshmen set up their orientation date, they are sent a form where they can list any food allergies. Newton gets the list of the allergens and contacts the family, if they have not already contacted him.

“A lot of these families are so proactive, they reach out to me,” Newton said.

These students can tell Newton what they typically eat and he will try to incorporate that into their meal plan.

He will also tell students what their food options are at dining halls near their classes and dorms, he said.

Recently, Dining Services has worked on improving the food availability for gluten-free students, Newton said.

“Our policies have not changed, we’ve just been able to spend more time focusing on these (gluten-free) products recently,” said Karri Benishek,

marketing manager of University Residences and Dining Services.

All of the Traditions Dining locations, North Commons, Morrill Tower and Kennedy Commons, offer gluten-free choices, Benishek said.

Gluten is a type of protein found in foods processed from wheat and other grains.

Newton said the quality of gluten-free food has increased in the past few years from manufacturers, which has made it easier for Dining Services to improve the food.

“The manufacturers are finally catching up. Five years ago you had fewer options,” he said. “It’s a combination of education, manufacturing and product availability that’s just opened up the world to (gluten-free) products that taste good.”

Chris Theobald, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering and an ambassador for students with special diets for Campus Dining Services, has noticed the improvement in the gluten-free food since his first year.

Theobald cannot eat foods containing gluten.

“(Finding gluten-free food) was a little bit more of a challenge. They had a system to provide people with special-diets food, but the quality was very inconsistent,” he said. “They’ve definitely improved.”

Newton said the Traditions Dining locations have a “solution station” where students can grab gluten-free items such as; bagels, buns, bread slices, tortillas, desserts and deli meats.

Theobald said he has tried most of the gluten-free options and rates the food as “very good”

and “excellent.”

“For lunch or dinner, my favorite thing that they’ve done is have gluten-free pasta,” Theobald said.

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