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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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Dining hall blues

UB lacks options for students with dietary restrictions

UB proudly claims to be the best SUNY school as far as dining options.

As a campus resident, my most economical choice for food is a meal plan, of which I have the 14. This is feasible for the majority of those who choose on-campus dining options. 

But the majority of students don’t live with the rather debilitating GI disorder known as Crohn’s Disease, which has stripped me of the ability to eat wheat and dairy products safely.

Next time you take a trip to C3 and are perusing the stations looking for ingredients to build your dinner, take a look at the white cards that describe the ingredients of the dish you’re about to serve yourself. 

The only place you are guaranteed to find free of both milk and wheat is the salad bar. 

To the untrained eye, UB does a phenomenal job providing for students with dietary restrictions. It offers vegetarian booths in all of the dining centers and provides ingredient lists to help students monitor which foods they can eat or not. 

This isn’t enough. 

My only option for dining should not be a salad. I should not have to pay $3,000 a semester for a dining plan that does not offer me adequate food options. 

Upon informing my roommates of my new change in diet, we took a trip to The Elli in search of snacks to fill my now-empty treats bin. Aisles of bright packaging left me with slim pickings: nuts and SkinnyPop.

UB also offers services for students to plan their meals around a healthy and balanced diet. This includes the newly-added NetNutrition feature which will show students all the options suitable for their dietary needs at a specific location.

Over 40 dining locations at UB offer a wide variety of options for whatever you may want to eat that day. 

According to the NetNutrition program, I have zero options at Casa Del Toro, Wrap It Up, Guac and Roll, Fowl Play and 15 other dining locations.

While fiddling with the NetNutrition system, I uncovered several other flaws. Although there are numerous options for ingredients to eliminate from your plan, dairy-sensitive students are only offered the selection of “Milk” to be removed. This allows other sensitive dairy products such as butter and whey to sneak their way into vulnerable students’ diet plans.

I was also disappointed to see that several of my “safe” options that were considered gluten-free, were specified as being whole wheat, another type of food that I cannot eat. A more broad spectrum of eliminatable ingredients could have easily solved these problems.

Much of the appeal of UB dining is the “do-it-yourself” options they offer to let students customize their meals. 

This is often executed by providing toppings tables that are breeding grounds for cross contamination. Open containers of peanut butter and shredded cheese can be a nightmare to maneuver for students with allergies. 

I know Simple Kitchen exists. However, to be offered admission into the facility, you must prove that you have dietary restrictions. It is also inconveniently on South Campus, a place that the majority of UB students have no reason to visit. 

There is a certain autonomy that you expect to have when you move onto a college campus. I should not have to jump through hoops and prove my case in order to obtain the most basic means of survival, which I expect to receive upon paying for my meal plan. 

In order for any student with a dietary restriction to live an independent life — or at least when it comes to food — UB should take bigger steps to promote safe and tasty options. 

The most personal details of my health are none of UB’s business.

Reilly Mullen is an assistant web editor and can be reached at 

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Reilly Mullen is the editor-in-chief at The Spectrum. She is a senior majoring in political science with a journalism certificate. She enjoys Dunkin’ iced lattes and Scrabble. A former web, features, news and managing editor, she is a columnist at heart but has covered everything from UB Football to breaking news. 



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