University of Findlay’s Henderson Dining Hall has introduced a station that caters to food allergy sufferers and others interested in “clean” eating. Developed by Sodexo, which operates all University dining locations, Simple Servings is available for all dining hall patrons.
Sodexo has always individually collaborated with students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors, at their request, to provide allergen-free meal options, said Dining Services Director David Harr. In recent years, however, the number of youths and adults affected by food allergies has skyrocketed nationwide, he said, which is consequently impacting Sodexo’s customer base.
“We’re seeing a bigger demand than ever before” for servings that don’t contain nuts, egg, dairy, and other common ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions ranging from mild to potentially fatal, Harr pointed out. Last year, Sodexo worked with more than 30 people to tailor their meals, “and those are just the people who told us about their allergies,” he said. “I’m sure there are more who don’t want people to know, who are embarrassed about it, or who, for whatever reasons, haven’t approached us for assistance.”
Although the health and service industries have increasingly recognized and addressed food allergies in children, a January 2019 multi-institutional study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows food allergies are also common and severe among U.S. adults, often starting in adulthood. Data suggests at least 10.8 percent of U.S. adults, or more than 26 million, are food allergic, whereas nearly 19 percent believe they have a food allergy.
Simple Servings is open daily for lunch and dinner at no extra cost, Harr said. The food is prepared separately from food offered at other stations; equipment was purchased and Sodexo staff have received additional food preparation and handling training that adheres to allergen-specific safety standards. Options include carved meats such as roast beef and rosemary pork loin, seasoned vegetables, and more. The recipes were designed to be simple, but delicious, said Harr. Gluten-free food items won’t be served at this location because those can still contain other ingredients that trigger allergies, but more than 900 options will be available on a rotating basis. “You’ll get a full, balanced meal out of the deal,” Harr promised.
Even those who don’t have food allergies can benefit from Simple Servings, said Melissa Carrick ’17, M ‘19, field marketing coordinator for Sodexo. The station is a good option for those who value a healthy diet rich in protein and vegetables. The University’s student-athletes in particular are enjoying Simple Servings, she added.
Carrick also pointed out that Simple Servings can be supplemented with Sodexo’s newly-enhanced Bite app, which lists nutritional information for all foods served at campus eateries; the app is understandably popular with vegetarians and vegans, she said.