'Allergy zone' stations added to residential restaurants, operating costs slightly lower


Campus Dining will make sure students with food allergies have an easier time finding safe options at residential restaurants this year.

New "allergy zone" stations will be present in all residential restaurants this semester. In addition, Campus Dining has relocated all special dietary items and equipment to one central location inside each residential restaurant for greater awareness and visibility.

No changes or additions have been made regarding food offerings. However, meals specific to students with allergies have been moved into one general area inside each restaurant, Nikki Smith, marketing manager for Campus Dining, said.

"Last year, we surveyed our current allergy students and discovered that greater awareness and visibility were needed regarding the options available for individuals with food allergies and intolerances. Information has been available at communication stations inside the restaurants for several years," Smith said. "However, through the survey process, we discovered that most students were not aware of this information. Therefore, Campus Dining made a commitment to create better awareness and visibility of the program within the restaurants."

Implementing allergy zone stations at all four residential restaurants included spending roughly $300 for marketing purposes, Smith said. In addition to marketing expenses, $6,800 was allocated for eight iPad kiosks.

Campus Dining will use the iPads this year to make NetNutrition, an online menu and nutritional information website Campus Dining utilizes, available to students within each restaurant this year. The iPads were first introduced to residential restaurants last fall, when two were placed in Real Food on Campus in the Towers residential halls.

Six additional iPads were purchased when the program was expanded to the other three residential restaurants.

"NetNutrition puts the knowledge and awareness of what you are eating right at your fingertips," Smith said.

Due to decreased on-campus enrollment, residential restaurants will be running with lower operating costs this year than in the past, Brenda Marquardt, director of Residential Dining, said. Food and labor expenses will be cut between 5 and 10 percent based on the location and item.

"Our goal would be to decrease our operating budget at the same rate as the decline in student enrollment," she said.

Student Government Association President Marie Reimers said SGA met with Campus Dining in the summer about labeling meals for those with allergies and were impressed with the changes that had already been made.

"We were pleasantly surprised at what was offered at the cafeteria," Reimers said. "We wanted stickers identifying what ingredients were used at each station, but we felt this was a strong compromise"


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