Every student with an on-campus housing contract at the Pennsylvania State University also purchases a meal plan. The money deposited into this account is most often used to eat at the buffet service in the dining commons. Penn State Housing and Food Services works to provide a wide array of eating options for all students, including vegan, vegetarian and kosher items. However, the needs of students with severe food allergies and intolerances are underrepresented in the dining commons. The labeling above each dish includes only a minimal amount of information: the name of the dish, serving size, caloric content, and meatless or vegan status. While students can ask workers of the commons if a particular dish contains a particular allergen, the servers may not be fully aware of potential cross contaminants. Upon inquiring further, a manager of West Dining Commons reported that the full nutrition facts and ingredients list for each dish on the daily menu are available online at www.hfs.psu.edu/foodpro. Also, if requested, a student nutrition assistant can provide advice on food options in the dining commons. However, with the prevalence of food allergies and rushed dining schedules throughout the student body, these options are inconvenient. A more easily accessible method of labeling potential reaction-inducing food items is needed, not only to make the students’ lives easier, but also safer.
According to the Penn State Housing and Food Services website, “Penn State Campus Dining will not assume any liability for adverse reactions to foods consumed, or items one may come in contact with while eating at any University establishments.” Despite this disclaimer, it is the responsibility of the university to do what they can in order to protect the students paying for dining services. Dining commons must take note of not only allergies (defined as immunological