Smith Dining Hall Changes Allergy-Free Section To Avoid Cross Contamination
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Culinary services at Ohio Wesleyan for those with dietary restrictions have recently been updated, but some students think that AVI needs to do more.
AVI, the providers of culinary services at OWU, have recently made changes to the gluten sensitive and allergen-free area in Smith Dining.
While previously it was open and self-serve, now a staff member inhabits the area that is frequently closed off. The staff member provides cook-to-order options and serves as a safeguard against cross contamination.
Cross contamination, when a food containing an allergen comes into contact with food that is supposed to be allergen-free, is very dangerous for some individuals, especially those with celiac.
For people with celiac something as small as a serving spoon touching a piece of bread then being placed back into a gluten-free offering is dangerous, let alone people trying to “make a gluten panini inside the waffle maker” reserved for gluten free individuals.
Students and AVI staff alike agree that cross contamination in Smith Dining is a real issue.
Ryan Boland, director of culinary services at OWU, said that the best way for a student to respond to any cross contamination they witness is to find a staff member and report the incident as soon as possible. However, the recent addition of a staff member who can monitor the area will hopefully reduce the need for reporting.
OWU student GK Magid who is both gluten-free and dairy-free says she feels the quality of the food has improved with the addition of a staff member, but says, “the biggest problem that I’ve faced with the section is inconsistency.”
She says that although inconsistency is an issue with all the food in Smith, and not just the allergen free food, students should be able to expect good food.
Boland said that another goal with adding a staff member to the gluten sensitive area was providing students with someone to connect to, similar to the staff member at the deli in the Hamilton Williams Marketplace. However, issues arise when said staff member is not present.
Magid, who had gotten dinner from Smith Dining just before sitting down to talk about their recent changes, expressed irritation at the fact that while the area was blocked while she came in, no staff member was present, and thus it was completely inaccessible.
Boland had said that gluten-free students are encouraged to push aside the cart and get what they need if nobody is there, but Magid was reprimanded by a nearby worker when she attempted to do just that.
While Smith may have had some updates for students who require accommodations, the Marketplace, where most of the student body goes for lunch, is still lacking.
Boland stated that to the right of the main serving area reside a few options for students with sensitivities; however, this information is clearly not well advertised.
Throughout his interview, Boland heavily stressed the importance of students communicating with AVI about their culinary issues.