Normally, heading back to campus fills students with excitement for a fresh start, the chance to make new friends and catch up with old ones. However, for some students with allergies and dietary restrictions, the thought of going back to school can fill them with anxiety.
Not everyone has the luxury of eating whatever they want when they go to a restaurant or a dining hall. Montclair State University students are no exception.
It can be difficult to find options on campus for students who follow a vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free or gluten-free diet. Although some students opt to follow a specific diet for personal or religious reasons, many have medical conditions, such as celiac disease, which requires them to eat a certain way.
However, Montclair State has taken steps to accommodate students dietary restrictions. Sam’s Place has recently implemented a strictly vegan and vegetarian section called Rooted.
Even if students don’t want to go directly to Rooted, Sam’s and Freeman dining hall offers vegetarian selections every day such as pizza, soup and the option to build your own sandwich or salad.
James Rush, sophomore economics major and former vegan, has eaten his fair share of plant-based meals at Sam’s.
“It gets old really fast,” Rush said. “When eating at the vegan section, the choices stay the same. The ingredients of the dishes don’t change.”
Talia Steinmetz, a sophomore film major who follows a vegetarian diet, has not been thrilled with the dining options, even though Sam’s has taken steps to accommodate different diets.
“There will be meat in scrambled eggs,” Steinmetz said. “The weekends are impossible because it’s just pizza and egg salad sandwiches. If they close early then there might be only some things left when I go later.”
If students get tired of eating at the dining hall, the Student Center has a number of restaurants to choose from including California Tortilla, Panda Express, So Deli, Grill Nation and Olo Sushi.
When following a vegan diet or vegetarian diet, a traditional meal at a restaurant can be easily modified upon request. Students can eat at California Tortilla by opting to choose no meat or cheese with their dish. Eating gluten-free there is easier than at other places because the burrito bowls are made with rice, which does not contain gluten.
The best places to eat at on campus to accommodate dietary restrictions are establishments which allow students to make their own meal. So Deli and Which Wich have gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian options. So Deli offers gluten-free bread, which is not always available at restaurants.
Those that follow certain diets are normally aware of foods that fit into their diet. However, sometimes restaurants are not aware of the consequences that cross-contamination can have on students, especially those with allergies.
Kayla Tozzi, senior dietetics major, follows a gluten-free diet and has witnessed cross-contamination at dining halls and other restaurants.
“I have seen grilled chicken going on a flour tortilla and being put back in the basin after someone decided to get crispy chicken,” Tozzi said. “Someone getting a bowl and trying to eat gluten-free can now get sick from the grilled chicken because it has been cross-contaminated.”
Tozzi now lives in The Village and is able to cook her own food to make sure her food is safe.
Even though Montclair State has a variety of restaurants to eat from, many students still have obstacles trying to follow their diet. Not everyone realizes the barriers people face when trying to accommodate their dietary needs. Although more choices are available in the dining hall, Montclair State can take more steps to provide more variety on campus.
For more information on vegan and vegetarian options on campus, see Montclair State’s Dine on Campus profile.