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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Athletes are under too much pressure
Opinion | Athletes are under too much pressure
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • 12:50 am

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Opinion | Athletes are under too much pressure
Opinion | Athletes are under too much pressure
By Jameson Keebler, Senior Staff Columnist • 12:50 am

‘It is literally DIY your own meal’: Students with dietary restrictions struggle finding food on campus

The+outside+entrance+to+The+Eatery+in+Litchfield+Towers.
Nate Yonamine | Senior Staff Photographer
The outside entrance to The Eatery in Litchfield Towers.

Eating on campus is often trickier for students with allergies or dietary restrictions like Jeremy Matloub, a first-year computer science major who is lactose intolerant. Oftentimes, he gives up when trying to find quality foods that meet his needs.

“I am a four meals a day type of person, but usually my dinner is eating sleep,” Matloub said.

Matloub is one of multiple students with dietary restrictions or allergies who finds Pitt doesn’t always accommodate their needs when it comes to food.

“I find it really difficult to find something sustaining without dairy and often the main meal has dairy in some way,” Matloub said. “I mostly have to eat at The Perch because they do have variety, but never The Eatery.”

Pitt’s dining services website says they offer several locations on campus to “satisfy your taste buds,” but that isn’t always the case for every student. Lindsay Wilson, Pitt’s campus dietician, said Pitt is dedicated to ensuring its students have access to the food they need, regardless of dietary restrictions.

“Pitt Eats believes that good nutrition is essential to achieve and maintain good mental and physical health,” Wilson said. “That’s why we are committed to providing equal and integrated access to nutritious foods for all Pitt students.”

First-year students living in residence halls at Pitt are required to have a meal plan, which usually means they eat at the campus’ biggest dining halls, The Perch or the Eatery, since the most basic meal plan gives them unlimited weekday access to these dining halls.

Matloub lives in Lothrop Hall and mentioned how he “deliberately decides to walk up the hill [to the Perch] instead of going to The Eatery.”

Connor Lyons, a first-year secondary education major, agreed with Matloub’s inclination towards The Perch.

“I think The Perch does give enough food options, but the Eatery has limited options,” Lyons said.

Wilson acknowledged the difficulties students with dietary restrictions face and said the University is aware of the extra steps that need to be taken when addressing their concerns. 

“We recognize that students with food-related medical conditions experience a more limited diet than those who do not have dietary restrictions,” Wilson said. “Additionally, substantial time and effort are required to successfully manage a dietary restriction. Therefore, we make every effort to provide support and guidance to those with food-related medical conditions.”

To try and help students with their allergies or dietary restrictions, there is a station called Flourish in the Eatery. This is an “allergen friendly” section that provides an inclusive communal dining experience for those with food allergies and celiac disease. It was created to prepare foods that do not contain the top nine major allergens including foods such as peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.

However, some students have a hard time always being certain of what is labeled as “safe” or appears to be “safe.”

“I would be worried about cross-contamination at The Eatery, because I go to the salad bar and it is always very messy,” Lyons said. “There is cheese with the tomatoes, or mixed into the lettuce, different vegetables are where they don’t belong. If someone had a severe allergy, I would be very concerned.”

When asked about cross-contamination in the dining halls, Wilson emphasized the difference between cross-contact and cross-contamination. 

“It’s important to note that cross-contact is different from cross-contamination,” Wilson said. “Cross-contact is when one food comes into contact with another food and their proteins mix, creating the potential for an allergic reaction. Cross-contamination is how microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, are spread and can lead to foodborne illness.”

Some students face high-risk allergies where having food mixed together might send them to the hospital, such as Maggie Layfield, a sophomore film major who deals with oral pollen allergy syndrome, which is caused by cross-reacting allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits, vegetables or some tree nuts.

“I found it hard sometimes to find fruits and veggies that I could eat without having a reaction since they do not separate the fruits and vegetables when they cut them up and prepare them,” Layfield said. 

Between the possibility of cross-contact and the lack of options, students are often forced to adapt to the challenge of finding food, which can lead to them spending their own money. Layfield recalled that she would have to buy her own food from the market or off-campus grocery stores which could become difficult due to the lack of fridge room in her dorm.

“I ate off-campus or bought food from stores with my normal money if I got tired of eating the same things every day due to my restrictions,” Layfield said.

While students struggle to find food to eat on Pitt’s campus, Wilson emphasized that the University offers several resources to help with their dining experience, such as meeting with a dietician or meeting with an Ingredient Expert who can address any allergy or ingredient questions on the food being served.

“To help students make informed and safe dining choices, we encourage all students with dietary restrictions to ‘Don’t be shy, self-identify!’ By disclosing their dietary needs to our team, we can better connect them with the information and resources needed to help them make informed food decisions on campus,” Wilson said.

Lyons recalled times when he had to go to the dining halls and take food such as grilled chicken and tortillas to handcraft his own meals so he knows what he is eating is safe.

“It is literally DIY your own meal,” Lyons said.

About the Contributor
Emily Handrahan, Staff Writer