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Pizza’s Kitchen: No Labels Drives Me Nuts

By Emily Pizza

After seven weeks of changing my diet and going from starvation to plentiful meals, I completed my final week of restricted dieting: no nuts.

Peanut and tree-nut allergies are the most prevalent food allergies, effecting 3 million people in the United States. This contributes to many Americans having an allergic reaction, which could land them in the hospital.

Once I started my journey, I realized that most foods were not going to be a problem. I obviously would not eat peanut butter or peanut sauce, but for the most part the meal itself wasn’t the problem. Instead what I was forced to keep an eye on were the desserts, which definitely caused me some trouble.

Every day I would go to the dessert section and watch as every single food had “contains nuts” signs next to them, which was definitely frustrating. There was never a dry dessert option like cookies or brownies. I suppose you could always eat ice cream, a bowl of cereal, or a cup of fruit. But chocolate chip cookies without nuts would have been a great treat for me every once and awhile.

That said I understand that the chance of contamination is a problem. So, I think that a sign above the foods, cautioning that there could be some contamination; similar to what the cafeteria does for the fried foods on the Home Line.

But poor labeling extends beyond the cafeteria. Since the start of my journey six weeks ago, I realized how important the labeling in the cafeteria is since some foods that contained an allergen surprised me. However, I didn’t realize that as much as I did this week.

Trying to buy a cookie at the Book Club was like flipping a coin, maybe it was totally fine, or maybe (if I actually had a nut allergy) it could kill me.

While putting stickers on the cookies – like the ones on the signs in the cafeteria – would definitely be ideal. Perhaps just having the name of the cookie on the basket where they are contained would have made things much easier. You would be surprised how similar peanut butter and sugar cookies look.

Overall, I have to congratulate the cafeteria on their progress these past few weeks. I have seen lots of improvements every week that have only helped me through my process.

Although there will probably never be a perfect solution to all of these dietary restrictions, I am really glad that we have a group of people so dedicated to making sure that every student can have a safe and yummy meal.

Pizza’s Kitchen: So-So for Soy-Free

By Emily Pizza

After eating Vegan last week, I decided no dietary restriction could be worse, so eating soy-free was the next restriction to check off my list.

Soy allergies, while most common in children and usually resolve themselves by age 16, but still affect some adults and can cause life-threatening allergic reactions. While it was really important to make sure I didn’t eat anything containing soy, I didn’t think all that many food items contained it. But boy was I wrong – as usual.

So many foods contained soy that I wouldn’t have ever imagined. While I obviously avoided soy sauce and tofu, I realized that all of the desserts and pizza’s served regularly contained soy.

Luckily for me, the gluten-free cookies I discovered during my first diet adventure were also soy free, so I enjoyed eating two of those after dinner every night. I didn’t mention them last week, but they are also vegan!

For the most part,  Kalamazoo College Dining services did a great job of labeling everything for me so I knew what I couldn’t eat. However, brunch last Saturday was dangerous because of the lack of labeling, and I’m pretty sure I ate some things that weren’t soy free during the week, because they were not labeled with the little green sicker (the chicken pesto wrap last Friday at the grille).

That said, I never had a problem finding foods I could eat. Although there were some of my favorite meals that were off my menu, for the most part I was extremely satisfied with the amount of options in the cafeteria.

I felt the same way about the Richarson Room Cafe, but I wished that there could have been more than one bread option (the pretzel bun) for me to eat.

The Book Club, however, I did have some problems with. None of the food in the cooler was labeled with stickers so I wasn’t sure if what I was eating had soy in it, so I just tried to avoid it. While it wasn’t a huge problem, it would have been great if the labeling was clearer on the sandwiches and salads that are in to-go containers.

Overall, I definitely give props to dining services for labeling everything that could have caused students with these allergies to go into possible anaphylactic shock, but we should also remember that any food could come into contact with others that contain soy or gluten that can cause these reactions for some people.

 

Pizza’s Kitchen: Vegan and Meal Swipes Don’t Mix

By Emily Pizza

Eating vegetarian last week wasn’t bad, so I figured trying vegan would logically be the next step up. While I knew that it was going to be more difficult, I didn’t realize how difficult it actually would be to cut animal products from my diet while eating on campus.

Although I don’t necessarily agree with vegan ideals, I recognize that there are people who eat this way at Kalamazoo College, and therefore the cafeteria should accommodate their dietary needs like they do for other students.

I found during my week of eating vegan, or should I call it starvation, that eating vegan in the cafeteria is next to impossible.

While there were some days when explicitly vegan options were available, tofu dishes or miso soup, which I thought were delicious and a great option for vegans, most days I was surviving on incredibly under-done vegetables, crunchy white rice, and toast with Jelly (which I hope is vegan, there were no signs to tell me otherwise).

The other fault came when the fried tofu sat out too long and gained the consistency of rubber. While the meals I ate at right at the beginning of a meal time were top-notch, if I got there an hour later, the fried tofu was instantly off my radar.

And of course, there were always vegan soups available. However, Just because one soup is called “beans and corn” and other is called “black bean soup” that contains corn, doesn’t mean they’re different things. After three days of eating that stuff, I may never eat black bean soup again.

Oftentimes by dinner I was forced to give up the diet just so I could eat enough to sustain myself, usually eating a grilled cheese or chicken sandwich, always wondering what I would do if giving up the diet wasn’t a possibility. If I were actually a student trying to eat vegan on a meal plan, it might not be feasible.

While there were salads available at both the Richardson Room Cafe and the Book Club, they became monotonous. Some variety would have been nice, but not as important as adding more variety in the cafeteria.

Overall, I was incredibly displeased with the amount of options I had in the cafeteria for eating vegan. If the cafeteria does not intend to provide more vegan options, I don’t see any way vegan students could survive eating only on meal-swipes.