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Food allergies in college

Posted on February 26th, 2010 by Alison Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

graduationI went to college with no dietary restrictions. I ate in the dining hall, free to choose whatever I wanted. There is enough to think about in college without having to worry about food allergies. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for young adults today who have to manage their diets in addition to everything else.

The number of teenagers with food allergies entering college is on the rise. And according to a study done by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, students with potentially life-threatening food allergies are at an increased risk for having severe reactions on college campuses. The good news is that colleges and universities are becoming better prepared with food allergy action plans, accommodations and better food choices for students.

An article is USA Today, “Colleges accommodate more students with food allergies”, highlights some of the ways students’ needs are being met.

A wonderful resource for college kids with food allergies is the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). Their FAAN College Network has a great list of Frequently Asked Questions for young adults entering college, and a database search of colleges and their “Food Allergy Approach.”

FAAN also has a website dedicated to teens with food allergies, www.FAANTeen.org.

Kids with Food Allergies has an article called Allergies and College Life with advice from a student who went through the process herself. One of her main points, which is a great one, is to plan early.

If anyone has tips for attending college with food allergies, please share them!

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  1. I would imagine a good idea would be to see if they will allow a mini-fridge and microwave in the dorm room. Having a stash of safe items in the room would be good. If there is a roommate make sure they know not to eat the gluten free stuff otherwise the student may not have anything to eat. I wouldn’t rely on the school to provide gluten free because even though they may try, there is no guarantee that the person putting it together doesn’t cross contaminate the food. My son is in 7th grade with a severe peanut allergy and although they make precautions for him they are not educated enough to make sure he is completely safe, so I always send his own food.

  2. Lori,
    You are right – many schools allow mini-fridge and microwave in special circumstances. Thanks for the tip!

  3. Just wanted to express my appreciation for this site.

    I’m 20 years old and a sophomore in college. Four days ago, I found out the culprit to my many medical issues. You guessed it – gluten intolerance!

    Luckily my mother is a registered dietitian and she’s been a very helpful resource. My biggest worry is going back to school three days from now, after my spring break is over.

    I’m going to have to handle all my meals by myself and in my cafeteria, even though I’m so new at this! Going to need all the help I can get!

  4. Maria,
    Good luck to you! It will definitely be a challenge, but it will get easier. Have you called the school to see what accommodations they can make for you? I am also going to email you some updated guides I have for a class I am teaching on Living Gluten-Free.

  5. My college is not so accommodating. I already new I was allergic to soy and pecans. but recently i had a severe reaction to something else. Ended up in the hospital 2 in one week, then ended up being admitted for a week cause it became dangerous and scary. They ran blood test but they are taking forever to come back, and they can’t do scratch test until I am off all of the medicine. They are suspecting I now allergic to peanuts, other tree nuts, apples and possibly avacado and latex “which go together, I broke out in rash from latex in in the hospital”. I went to the grocery store yesterday, spent over an hour trying to find food to eat that was more then just snacks. I was in the health food section forever, because conventional items usually contain soy and other fillers. Also I spent over $50! Being college with food allergies is hard on a student budget and is very challenging. If anyone has any tips on saving money, things to buy, or anything at all please let m know!

  6. Hi Karen,
    I think the hardest age to be on any restrictive diet is the college years. Is there a campus dietitian that could help you? Where do you go to college?

  7. It’s really hard to eat on campus with a meal plan. I found out this summer I had a gluten intolerance, so I made an appointment with the nutritionist on campus for the first week back at school. My options are more widespread in the dining hall itself, but as a senior it’s hard to find someone who wants to eat there with me. My only option in the Student Union Building, where most of the upperclassmen eat, is a salad from the salad bar or asking someone to make me a “pre-made” salad at the sandwich place because their prepackaged ones all have croutons.
    It’s also hard because most of the food service employees on campus think I’m asking if the food is free when I ask if it’s gluten free.
    I keep a loaf of bread in my room and some peanut butter and jelly. I have gluten-free cupcakes in my freezer for birthdays, and there’s a great pasta place in town that does gf pizzas and pasta dishes. Luckily my school’s in a very vegan-popular community, which brings out a lot of “alternative” food options, like dairy free or gluten free.
    Karen – tips for saving money: you can find tons of coupons online for gf breads and pastas, also some companies will send you a sample if you request one before you want to buy. Also wait until stuff goes on sale and buy it then. I keep bread in my freezer before I use it. =]

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