“When I first went meatless last year, I was new to it so it was hard for me to figure out what to eat,” says Millersville University (MU) sophomore and vegetarian Bradlie Attinger.
“Last semester I was stuck eating at least one salad a day because there wasn’t many options for me.”
Attinger and other MU students with restricted diets may not be aware of the resources available to them and the University’s willingness to accommodate their dietary needs.
Larger schools such as the University of California at Berkeley and University of Maryland offer daily vegetarian and vegan options and establish allergy and special diets advisory boards. However, a school of MU’s size does not contain the number of students with alternative diets to warrant such accommodations.
“We can’t have our cooks preparing something that only one percent of the population is going to eat. So what we try to do is make things that will be more popular for the entire population,” explains Gerry Shehan, associate director of Student Dining.
“If you go too far out on a limb then you’re only really preparing for only the few. There may be a small portion of vegetarians who are willing to eat seitan [meat substitute], but you’re probably not going to catch the rest of the population with those kinds of things.”
Even though the University cannot regularly carry alternative meal options, it does offer extensive assistance to students with special dietary needs.
Any Millersville student can set up a free consultation with one of two registered dieticians accessible through MU’s Dining or Health Services.
During these consultations, dieticians discuss eating concerns, review menus and encourage nutritiously balanced meals.
“The staff very much sees this as a team approach working with the student, student’s family, dietitian and executive chef,” explains one of the University’s dieticians, Lauren Scaccia. “Once Dining Services is aware of the student’s exact restrictions, they educate the student on what is available to them and where to find it on campus. If need be, Dining Services will even make additional food for the student within their restrictions or purchase certain items for them.”
Aside from personal accommodations, the various eateries at Millersville continue to expand their culinary options to suit a wider dietary audience.
The recently renovated Upper Deck offers a made-to-order cooking station that allows students to create their own meals based on an assortment of ingredients including grains, vegetables, pastas and meats. The Anchor offers fresh-made sushi and gluten-free pizza, bread and wraps. A Meatless Monday menu has been proposed for the Marauder Express food truck, which would feature items such as a veggie burger and made-to-order quesadillas.
Over his nearly 15 years at MU, Executive Chef Louis Logan has watched these alternative food options arise and evolve as dietary trends became part of the college dining experience. “With each renovation we have been able to continuously add options in food selection, increased hours of operation and give added consideration to the dietary concerns that some of our student have,” he recounts.
Despite the passion of staff members such as Shehan, Scaccia and Logan, students who are struggling to find substantial eating options may not be aware of the services offered by the University.
Scaccia estimates that she meets with three to five students a month. “I’m not sure how many students are aware that there is a dietitian available to them,” she says. “Most students find out about the service when they are being seen at Health Services or have contacted Dining Services about food related questions.”
Attinger thinks she may have heard about these services offered by University Health and Dining Services. While she has yet to take advantage of one herself, the sophomore recognizes that a dietician consultation would be beneficial for students with restricted diets.
“I think Millersville University does a great job at accommodating most food restrictions,” Scaccia continues. “Good communication between the University and students regarding food restrictions and allergies is very important. Dining Services needs to be aware of the restriction so they can be sure to accommodate the student and offer foods that fit within the student’s diet.”
MU students with restrictive diets can contact Health Services at 717-871-5250 to set up an appointment with a dietician. Any special requests or suggestions can be directed to Dining Services at 717-871-5275, as menu changes are often the result of student feedback.
The number of resources available to students with alternative diets at Millersville reveals the school’s dedication to evolving dietary needs. But the University may want to also improve their advertisement of those resources in order to effectively serve the students struggling to find appropriate eating options on campus.