Monday, February 22, 2010

Colleges accommodate more students with food allergies

Photo source: bookofjoe

A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities are trying to meet the health needs of students with food allergies by providing modified menu choices and/or allergy-free dining facilities.

From USA Today
College students take risks. They pull all-nighters ahead of early-morning presentations. They skip more classes than they attend. They eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chocolate bars and pizza.

That last one doesn't sound so risky — and isn't, for most people. But it can be dangerous, even fatal, for the growing ranks of traditional-age undergraduates with food allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans under the age of 18 with food allergies rose to 3 million, which is 4% of the age group, in 2007, up from 2.3 million, or 3.3% of the under-18 population, in 1997. As those kids grow up, some lose their allergies, but many others don't.

In greater numbers than ever before, they're arriving on college campuses with concerns that dining halls don't know how to handle.

The allergic student of even a few years ago might have had to take chances, pester cooks about ingredients or just skip eating anything made in a public kitchen altogether. But as allergies seem to have become more common — and as allergy sufferers and advocates have become more aggressive in lobbying for accommodations – dining services officials are beginning to act. Many college and university dining halls have adopted signs that point out common allergens, while others offer frozen meals and special items like gluten-free bread so students with allergies can have the social experience of eating with their friends.

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