By Grace McIntosh Contributing Writer

Walk into South Dining Hall and you’ll witness busy Sodexo employees hustling around in their bright blue uniforms as they work to provide students their meals. What’s on today’s menu? For some people, the importance of this question is all too real with their food allergies or dietary restrictions.

The Simple Serving station, an allergen free station, is useful for people with dietary restrictions. (Photo by Keely McConomy)

   Doug Winslow, executive chef of South Dining Hall, clarified why these concerns won’t be a problem at UMF. “We have identifiers at every station at every meal that show whether it is gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, or if it contains allergens,” said Doug. “If there is ever a question they can ask the person working the station or come find any of the managers. The doors to the kitchen are 100% open.”

   First year student Toni Facciponti, who has been a vegetarian for two years, was afraid she wasn’t going to have healthy options to fit her needs. “I was worried I would only have salad or cheese pizza to eat,” Facciponti said.

   However, when Facciponti arrived at UMF, it was clear there would be a variety of options. “The stir fry bar is a nice area for lunch, they’ll usually have rice or noodles and will cook up veggies of your choice and sometimes tofu, ” Facciponti said. The aroma of curried vegetables can often be smelled as students enter for a meal.

   At the far end of South Dining Hall, next to the kitchen, lies an allergy-friendly food station that has become a safe haven for students. The Simple Serve station is free of the eight major allergens – peanuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, fish, shellfish, and treenuts – making it the perfect place to grab a bite worry-free of cross contamination.

   First year student Brandon Marx, a pescetarian, says the Simple Serve station is his go-to for dinner. “UMF has a good selection of vegetarian choices and there will always be at least one available each meal,” Marx reassured.

   Of course, the dining hall is not a perfect system and there is always room for improvement. One student found their experience with Sodexo quite difficult. Junior Alexis Libby has a gluten allergy that caused dining during her sophomore year to be challenging.

   “Choices were always so limited. I lived on salad,” Libby said. “Frankly, the lack of options was unacceptable and I think a greater variety of gluten-free options should be available.” Libby acknowledged that the Simple Servings option was usually her safest bet. Her advice is to advocate for yourself if you don’t feel your needs are being met.

   Regardless of people’s experience with the food, Sodexo workers have a reputation around campus for being some of the warmest and kindest people.

   “The workers have been extremely helpful and pleasant during my interactions with them,” Marx said. Facciponti also agrees with the staff-friendliness saying that they make an effort to know your name as well.

   Whether today’s menu looks good or not, the dining hall aims to make your experience pleasant from start to finish for each meal.