No comfort in college dining

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College is no easy feat. But perhaps one of the hardest parts is adjusting to food that your momma didn’t cook. After a few weeks you will miss your dad’s BBQ ribs and your grandma’s famous fresh-baked cookies.

In my case, I missed Saturday morning donuts from the bakery and the many casseroles my mom made. I felt like something was missing from my life. This was especially true on certain days when my family followed traditions and ate certain foods for certain holidays. I was now in the world of college where I was left to fend for myself.

I saw an article a fellow staff member was writing about a recent trip to China that some UIS staff embarked on. Four staff members traveled to a few different universities in China to experience their culture and learn more about the food served there. The hope was that the trip would provide a better understanding of true Chinese food so that UIS could serve dishes similar to those from China. This would ultimately help the transition for these international students.

But what about me? I wasn’t being given the option to have Polish food to help my transition at UIS. I come from a Polish family that celebrates most occasions with pierogi, rye bread, kolaczki, borscht and barszcz grzybowy. UIS does not offer these foods on any occasion. I wondered about other students and their cultural backgrounds. Were they experiencing the same feeling of loss that I was? I figured there had to be other students in this position.

I sat down with Geoffrey Evans from the University Dining Service to find out about food service’s plan to incorporate different foods into PAC’s Food Emporium. There are no more trips planned at this time to travel to the home countries of UIS international students but it could be a possibility in the future.

I inquired about gluten-free options in PAC because I recently found out I have celiac disease. This means I can no longer eat rye, wheat and barley. Evans said PAC has gluten-free breads and buns for burgers and sandwiches as well as several gluten-free options in the LRH Grab-n-Go. I have gotten most of my food from the Grab-n-Go after I found out it was offered there. My only suggestion is that food services advertises these gluten-free options more around campus so students know where to locate them.

As for focusing on the current UIS population, Evans said food services is always looking for meal suggestions. With the amount of vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free students and other food allergies on campus it is difficult to provide enough quality meal options for everyone. It is important to look into the cost of various foods as well, since gluten-free foods for instance, are not cheap. Would it be a waste to make gluten-free pizzas or pasta? What if no one ate it within the allotted time frame and it was thrown away? These issues are the reasons why gluten-free foods are hard to come by in PAC. Not enough people would eat the food and it would mostly be wasted.

I understand this problem, which has led me to start cooking at home in small portion sizes so I do not have to waste food. However, students in dorms do not have kitchens. In this case, I suggest checking out the LRH Grab-n-Go to find food that works for their situation.

Evans also mentioned the International Food Nights in LRH, which offer food from various countries. Students can take an opportunity to try some new dishes or enjoy food from their homeland.

Whatever it is you are looking for in food, if you don’t see it then suggest it! Changes can only be made if students speak up. Information to contact food services can be found at:  http://www.uis.edu/foodservice/contact/.

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