It's no secret that college kids with food allergies - especially life-threatening ones, such as to peanuts and shrimp - face major challenges in university dining halls. But a few weeks ago, college dining hall directors got a major wake-up call after a U.S. Department of Justice settlement agreement with Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass. A student had sued the university in 2009, saying the university had sidestepped the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by not accommodating students with severe food allergies. It was a landmark case.
Now Lesley students with celiac disease or severe food allergies - and by extension, college students with food allergies at any campus that doesn't want to run afoul of ADA - are entitled to more than the gluten- or peanut-free offerings bin in the cafeteria. And it's going to be a major change for the subset of universities that had dealt with the allergy problem by telling students they could alter their housing contract to opt out of the mandatory meal plan, thereby "solving" the problem by making students find their own food off-campus while their dorm-mates supped in the dining hall.
Lesley officials agreed to work out individual meal plans specific to students with those allergies, train dining hall staff, find vendors who specialize in allergen-free foods, allow students to order food ahead of time and - this is critical - set aside kitchen and pantry space so those areas are not contaminated by the peanut butter cookies being baked nearby.
You'll find more tips on coping with food allergies in the dorms here.