University offers choices to help students with food allergies


The Kent Stater Hodgson Mill is a vegan friendly brand sold at the Eastway Market and Deli, which also sells gluten free, vegetarian, vegan and traditional options for Kent State students.

Kelsie Britton

Kent State University Dining Services provides multiple options for students affected by food allergies.

Dining Services Resident District Manager Richard Roldan said that the conversation on food allergies starts early — before students even arrive on campus.

“We start this process with students at Destination Kent State where we sit at a table with our dietician and we start that conversation early on,” Roldan said. “If we can understand what the needs are, not only the students and the family, but we’re all going to feel much more comfortable and more confident once we open up the first day of school.”

Roldan said Kent Dining Services does its best to cater to students’ unique needs.

“If somebody comes to us and says, ‘This item is something I can easily digest,’ we go and get that product,” Roldan said.

Roldan said Dining Services constantly stays updated on dietary trends for ways to accommodate students with allergies.

“We’ve recently seen the most increase in diagnosis for students with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance,” Roldan said. “As students are becoming more knowledgeable about their allergies and what affects them, we are trying to be more proactive.”

Dining Services is currently focused on increasing the use of allergen labels on menus across campus, he said.

Ryan Ohlin, sophomore integrated language arts major, has been diagnosed with Celiac’s disease for eight years and also has diabetes.

“You kind of just learn after a while what you can and can’t eat,” Ohlin said. “But at Kent, there’s usually always an alternative for me.”

Dining Services recently opened a new food station inside Eastway Center called Simple Serving.

“At Eastway, we just opened up a new station called Simple Serving which is free of seven of the eight common allergens,” said Kent State’s Dining Service’s Dietician Megan Cascaldo. The station includes gluten, shellfish, tree nut, peanut, milk, egg and soy free foods, she said.

Simple Serving has trained chefs who prepare and cook the food separately from all other menu items to prevent cross-contamination.

“We try to do that with all the other items but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that that’s happening when it’s all being produced in the same kitchen, even it’s ‘gluten-free’ by recipe,” Roldan said. “For the longest time, treating people with allergies was not having cookies with nuts next to cookies without nuts and that certainly (is) not the case anymore.”

Cascaldo said that Dining Services’ staff welcomes all dietary questions and concerns.

“We’re really trying to encourage students to come forward and communicate any allergies or needs that they have to us,”Cascaldo said. “It’s difficult to help them if we don’t know what they need.”

Contact Kelsie Britton at [email protected].