Prentice Cafe senior manager shares passion for healthy eating

Rachel Stevenson

Prentice Cafe Senior Manager Marlene Maneage said her passion for healthy eating and commitment to Kent State’s University Dining Services has impacted her role in managing the gluten-free facility.

Maneage said she started a “journey of weight loss” and adopted a healthy lifestyle after watching her mother struggle with diabetes for years.

“She lost two legs, so it became very important to me, especially having children. It really forced me to take a good look at myself and make that decision for health,” she said. “I couldn’t and didn’t want to do the same things to myself I watched my mother go through, so it was huge in my passion for health and taking care of people as best I can.”

Shortly after changing her diet, Maneage said she started experiencing skin conditions, bloating and stomach pains, which, after several years of tests and doctors visits, lead to her diagnosis with gluten intolerance.

After receiving being diagnosed, she said one of her biggest challenges was finding foods she and her family could enjoy while remaining on a budget.

“That was a whole journey in itself because you look at things you grab so quickly, and all of a sudden you can’t,” she said.

Maneage said she faced the most challenges, but had the most fun working with recipes for bakery items and adjusting ingredients to meet her dietary needs. Her interest for researching and experimenting with recipes has impacted her work at Prentice Cafe.

Tracy Holzman, executive chef of University Dining Services, said Maneage played a key role in making Prentice Cafe a gluten-free facility by using her passion for healthy eating to research menu items and try new recipes.

“I think this unit is perfect for her, and I don’t think we could have accomplished what we have accomplished (up) to this point without her,” Holzman said. “With her background and her passion for all of this, this is perfect for her.”

Maneage said she also worked closely with the Gluten Intolerance Group to create new policies, procedures and training materials, which made it possible for Prentice Cafe to become a certified gluten-free facility.

She said the driving inspiration for working closely with the transformation of Prentice Cafe is her passion for University Dining Services and commitment to her role as senior manager.

“I love what I do. I put my heart and soul into anything that comes my way, so if it would’ve been anything else, I would’ve put everything into it just the same,” she said.

However, Maneage said having a gluten intolerance has increased her awareness of issues many students with dietary restrictions face, and that she believes it is important for the university to provide dining options to accommodate students with these restrictions.

“We have to be serious and take care of our students and I think, probably, the intolerance side of me has truly increased my awareness of that issue for some individuals,” she said.

Devin Michel, stores clerk for Prentice Cafe, said Maneage spends a lot of time educating others on gluten intolerance and healthy eating by explaining why she thinks it is important and how it has personally affected her.

“It always feels like something she’s connected to on a personal level, rather than just something she’s doing because she has to,” he said.

Linda Callahan, a cook at Prentice Cafe, said University Dining Services would not have been able to transform Prentice Cafe into a gluten-free facility without Maneage.

“I think she is the only one who could’ve pulled this off because she’s that good,” Callahan said. “She expects excellence. She demands it and we just try to give it to her all the time. She keeps her standards real high and it makes us work harder for her.”

Maneage said she advises students who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance to put their overall health first and be mindful of the foods they eat.

“If there’s something that you don’t see (on our menu) speak up. Maybe we can get it, maybe we can do it,” she said.

Holzman said Maneage deserves credit as the force behind research and development of new menu options to meet students’ needs.

“She deserves respect and a big thank-you for the hard work she has done,” she said. “It’s appreciated by the university. It’s appreciated by workers. It’s appreciated by families of these students and the students who come here and feel safe to eat.”

Rachel Stevenson is a residence halls reporter, contact her at [email protected]

The video package was produced by Krista Renaldo. Contact her at k[email protected]