Having a food allergy at school . . . ah yes, I remember those days. I can remember teachers celebrating my friends’ in-class birthday parties with ice cream and homemade brownies galore. Everyone would have fun, enjoying one delicacy after another . . . everyone except me, that is. Because I am lactose intolerant, my mom would send my teacher a hand-written note explaining that I “needed to avoid milk products” during class activities. Thanks, Mom. So, while my friends would munch on the tastiest of treats, I would be left with something less appealing.
Thankfully, students with food allergies at Brown are not left with the Ratty equivalent of a Fruit Roll-Up. As cited in a recent USA Today article, Brown is one of a number of colleges and universities in the country that are catering to the various dietary needs of today’s students. With “allergy-free kitchens” and meals made by “specially-trained cooks,” these schools are responding to the growing presence of students with food allergies on college campuses. In a 2007 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 4 percent of children aged 18 and under have food allergies. While some of these children outgrow their allergies, many do not, which leaves college administrators to prepare for the influx of students with varied dietary needs.
Brown is certainly up to the challenge. In a 2008 interview, Ann Hoffman, director of administration at Brown Dining Services, discussed what BDS does for students with specialized dietary needs, such as celiac disease, or intolerance to gluten. “We offer special meal preparation if our menu doesn’t provide an adequate selection of safe and appealing options,” Hoffman said. Once again, Brown is doing what it can to cater to student needs, and my first grade self smiles to see that there’s not a Fruit Roll-Up in sight.