Managing Your Food Allergy at College
Going off to college is a life milestone that is both exciting and stressful. But leaving home for college is especially unsettling if you have a food allergy. Managing your food allergies is a challenging learning curve in itself, but managing food allergies at college adds other concerns.
Finding a cooperative process in which to work with your college is a good first step in taking care of your dietary needs. However, be prepared in case you run into a roadblock. Not all food services departments of colleges are the same when it comes to understanding and responding to students with food allergies.
Some universities offer a meal exemption plan, but this often requires living in the dorm and sharing a communal kitchen with fifty or so students. If this is not a viable option, you may need to write to the dean. Ideally, an apartment on campus offers the most safety and control of your diet.
Be proactive and prepare early as you begin to look at colleges and take a look at their food services. Having a food service representative who understands the challenges of food allergies is a big advantage.
Check out the FARE College Food Allergy Program. This newly developed program is designed to help with several areas of college life such as, food allergies relating to dining services, resident life and social well-being, health services, disability accommodations and emergency services.
Helpful suggestions before selecting your college:
- Take a tour of the dining facilities and asking the food service director how you can verify the ingredients of each meal and exchange an unsafe entrée for one you can eat.
- Find out if you can bring a compact combo refrigerator and microwave, which allows you to prepare food in your room.
- See if your housing options let you choose a supportive friend to be your roommate or if you can live in a single room, which can help create a safe and allergen-free living environment.
Dorm Living and Friends
- Orient your roommates, hall mates, and Resident Advisor by distributing your Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan to all dorm staff members, and place a copy in your dorm room and in your Resident Advisor’s room.
- Talk to your roommates about your food allergy, how they can help in an emergency.
- If you are going to eat fast food at one of the local campus hangouts be sure to check out the ingredient lists before you order. Websites, such as allergyeats.com, can help you find safe restaurants to enjoy.
It’s a good idea to speak with your allergy doctor for additional recommendations and reliable advice about managing your food allergies at college. Also, students share their experiences and ideas on this insightful blog for teens with food allergies.