About the U.S. Colleges Directory: Comparing Food Allergy & Gluten-Free Policies

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in College Corner, Managing Allergies, Parenting & School

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For those looking ahead to choose a college, fit is everything – from academics to athletics and student life. However, for the student with food allergies or celiac disease, there are also vitally important considerations regarding dining and housing options, to ensure that medically required diet needs can be accommodated.

To offer a head start on the accommodations information, Allergic Living updates its U.S. Colleges Directory: Comparing Food Allergy & GF Policies. It now encompasses 126 institutions and their policies available in the 2017-2018 academic year.

There are three large companies that work under contract to provide dining services to hundreds of universities and colleges across the United States: Sodexo, Compass Group (with operations including Bon Appétit and Chartwells) and Aramark. These companies provide significant food allergy training and standardized procedures. As there is some variance at individual colleges and housing policies also differ, Allergic Living’s directory sets out information by institution rather than by contractor. Also, the directory includes some colleges whose dining facilities are managed independently.

To participate in the directory, each college answered 18 questions about accommodations for students with food allergies and celiac disease in three areas:

  • Disability Services
  • Dining Services
  • and Residential Housing.

Those answering our questions included: dietitians, directors of dining services, executive chefs, specialists in disability services, and directors and assistant directors of housing.

To provide a strong cross-section of programs and geographical locations, Allergic Living canvassed all of the schools included in last year’s directory, as well as some colleges and universities recommended by our readers. Most schools were eager to provide information on how they meet the needs of students with food allergies and/or celiac disease.

Policies and procedures do change, so while this directory offers initial guidance, we encourage you to visit the university/college and speak with administrators about your student’s specific needs.

View Allergic Living’s state-by-state directory here.

The Big 3 Food-Service Providers

Allergic Living also asked for some elaboration on food allergy policies from Sodexo, Compass Group and Aramark.

  • Beth Winthrop, MS, RD, answered the questions for Sodexo. She is National Wellness Director for Campus Services, and the developer of the Simple Servings allergy-friendly and gluten-free dining program.
  • For Compass Group, Jennifer Roberts, MS, RD, who is the Senior Director of Nutrition Communications for Compass Group North America answered our questions below.
  • For Aramark, Kelley Magowan, MS, RD, LDN, provided the information. She is the Senior Health & Wellness Manager.
Does your company have a “standard” policy or practice for colleges in regard to food allergy students?

Sodexo: Sodexo has a food allergy policy that covers staff training, prevention of cross-contact, properly advertising foods, required front- and back-of-house signs, emergency readiness, and handling requests for special meals for food-allergic customers. Sodexo Universities, which vary widely in size and geography, handle the needs of food allergic students in a variety of ways. Some prepare careful one-on-one meals, some have a My Zone personal pantry, and some have the award-winning Simple Servings (which is free of gluten and 7 top allergens). Many have a combination of all of these.

Sodexo managers and dietitians were also contributors to Food Allergy Research and Education’s FARE College Program, and work with departments within many of the universities we serve to implement FARE guidelines. This blog post gives more information.

collegefoodCompass: We create custom programs for each of our clients that match the specific needs of each location. We serve a wide variety of colleges and universities from small commuter schools to very large universities, to graduate schools and a variety of other unique educational systems. We offer solutions to each of our clients that include menu selections, specialty pantries, dedicated stations and in some cases entire cafés that serve students with food allergies, celiac disease and other dietary restrictions.

Aramark: Serving safe, nutritious food is our top priority. We train all of our staff to make sure they understand the proper procedures to follow. Our policy and programs are built around our strong belief that our customers’ safety is best served by connecting every diner who has a food allergy with a manager onsite. The manager can understand that person’s unique needs and share relevant food content information to reflect the recipes and ingredients used that day and at that specific location.

Our registered dietitians and food service directors regularly meet with students, who identify themselves as having food allergies, intolerances or special dietary needs. They review food allergies and preferences and create individualized meals for them as needed. The tremendous variety we offer in our menus is enabled by a culinary database with thousands of recipes with thousands of varying sub-ingredients. Our operator training programs are meant to ensure that we can create a safe dining experience across the extensive variety of foods that we serve, for all of our customers, for any of the major food allergies or intolerances that may be an issue.

We also have an Allergen Solutions Program available for our college accounts to implement. The residential station concept offers menu items prepared without 7 of the top 8 most common food allergens, plus gluten.

Does your company provide food allergy training for dining staff and/or for Resident Assistants?

Sodexo: Food allergy training is required for all management, culinary, and frontline staff. Over 1,000 Sodexo managers, chefs, cooks and frontline employees are also AllerTrain-certified. Sodexo has a number of managers and dietitians who are AllerTrain Master Trainers, who offer AllertTrain training to Resident Advisers (RAs) on our campuses, in addition to food allergies being a part of RA training on the general dining program and resources.

Compass: Training is a crucial part of our food allergen management approach across Compass Group. That is why we are piloting FARECheck, FARE’s audit program aimed to review training and related materials for internal food handling and preparation processes specific to food service. This training program is in addition to our comprehensive food safety training and focused exclusively on food allergens and anaphylaxis, including any and all procedures for addressing customer food allergies..

Aramark: Yes, we have mandatory training focused on food allergies for all employees going through onboarding, as well as quarterly, onsite training with all employees and managers. Accounts who run a station focused on accommodating those with food allergies, intolerances or preferences receive more in-depth, monthly training.

Is there a company app that includes ingredient information for all menu items served?

Sodexo: Sodexo’s state-of-the-art test kitchen does recipe development in partnership with college chefs and dietitians. This results in recipes that are delicious and have accurate allergens and nutritionals. This information is available to students in multiple formats: from the campus’ online menu to the “nutrition calculator,” point of service signage, and the Sodexo “Bite” app.

Compass: Our solutions are customized to each client. We communicate our ingredient information in a variety of ways including in café signage, dining websites and apps. In addition, part of the Compass Group culture is to encourage open communication between our guests and our chefs and managers in each of our locations. This communication is especially important for our chef specials, which include unique menu items created at each location based on locally and seasonally available ingredients.

Aramark: Aramark makes every effort to provide customers with the information they need to make decisions about which foods to eat at our dining facilities. We encourage customers to refer to our menus and to ingredient information that is made available at point-of-service or online. Our registered dietitians, management teams and chefs assist customers in reviewing product labels and recipes upon request. We communicate to our customers that Aramark relies on our vendors’ allergy warning and ingredient listings.

Because we operate in commercial kitchens where ingredient substitutions, recipe revisions and cross-contact with allergens is possible, Aramark cannot guarantee that any food item will be completely free of allergens.

How many U.S. colleges are using your services?

Sodexo: Sodexo provides integrated facilities management and food service operations to nearly 600 colleges and universities throughout North America, of which 520 include dining services.

Compass: We serve over 375 colleges and universities.

Aramark: Over 320 dining accounts.

View Allergic Living’s state-by-state directory here.

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