The allergen food station at the Hodson Dining Commons is being maintained to reflect growing progress in variety and security.
Located to the right upon entrance in the dining area, Inspired Eats, a Parkhurst in-house brand, hosts dishes free of the eight major food allergens: soy, dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts and gluten.
Students can also find a fridge in the Inspired Eats area that contains almond milk, rice milk and oat milk, as well as gluten free bread, muffins, bagels and cookies.
“The intent is to create a high quality, consistent meal with as much variety as possible for the students with allergies and special dietary needs,” General Manager Dave Manz said.
Since the beginning of Taylor University’s 2022-2023 school year, Hodson has been experiencing change and development in its management, quality and variety.
Some notable changes that have impacted the allergen station are the hiring of new chef Nori Zand and an improved digitized menu system displayed using Amazon Fire Sticks.
The population of people with food intolerances and allergies has been growing, and many college campuses now have a 5 to 6 percent range of people with such needs.
“The allergen program isn't an afterthought,” Marketing Coordinator Rob Barnes said. “For us, it's not a secondary thing; it is a priority. I think that's safe to say it is a very big, big priority for the entire team to make sure that we do it right.”
Behind the scenes in Hodson, a separate area of the kitchen and specific staff are designated for the preparation of allergen-free food.
Separate food warmers are also used to ensure the prevention of cross contamination. When serving, students are required to use clean plates at Inspired Eats. Failure to do so requires station workers to replace entire pans of food or else put at-risk students in danger of consuming allergens.
It is important for students to note that Inspired Eats is not the only selection that shares the station. Another station, “V2,” serves vegetarian and vegan options and is directly next to the allergen-free foods.
Manz cautions students to develop an awareness for this as the V2 station may contain allergens.
“With the design of the facility, those two points of service and those two menu profiles share a location, but they're intended to be separate,” Manz said.
With the gradual changes, Manz and Barnes said they have received positive feedback regarding improvements such as the implementation of new recipes.
Junior Abbi Hazard has a severe dairy allergy and recognizes the changes happening at Hodson.
“I do feel like it's improved a little bit since the beginning of the school year, that there hasn't been this many, like, obvious allergens that were there,” Hazard said. “There has been a little bit more variety.”
The staff in Hodson are ready and willing to meet with all students about any concerns they have regarding their food services.
Manz said that no student’s dietary needs should be minimized or outcasted; they are still a part of the dining community at Taylor.
“Our team is always ready and willing to meet with that person,” Barnes said. “We'll bring up our chef; we'll bring up our dining manager. Sometimes Dave will be there; I'll be there. We'll talk to them and we'll listen to their concerns specifically, and we'll address those concerns.”
Students can provide feedback using the virtual comment cards located throughout the DC or can email their concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.