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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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OPINION | Making Commons accommodating

Nathan Rich

Entering The Malkin Sacks Commons on a Sunday evening, swarms of students closely file between the salad bar and the taco line. The white surfaces of long, communal tables are almost entirely covered with an assortment of salad bowls, pizza slices and empty plastic cups. 

The average student with a dietary restriction may begin their food search with a visit to the Simplified station, which offers meals without “milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, or gluten,” according to the Tulane University dining website. After possibly picking up a choice of meat or some lentil pasta, students with a dietary restriction are left with the option of visiting the salad station or scouring the food stations in search of a safe food item that they enjoy. A few bread items or snacks can be picked up from the Simple Zone area, which is a food pantry located on the second floor of the Commons that keeps dietary sensitive food products uncontaminated from the rest of the cafeteria items. 

Dietary restrictions come in many forms, and in order to accommodate the greatest variety of students, the Simplified station should serve a wider selection of prepared dishes each evening. 

For example, some prepared meal options might not be suitable with a vegetarian’s diet, and others might not be suitable with a student that is just gluten free. Ideally, there should be separate stations that accommodate a variety of diets across the Commons, and these meals should clearly indicate whether or not they are gluten free, vegan or dairy free. 

The Simple Zone pantry offers a selection of baked goods like muffins, donuts or sliced bread that are safe for students with dietary restrictions. Additionally, there are fresh fruits, various snacks and eggs to cook on a provided stove. The Simple Zone should contain pre-made meals that are suitable for a variety of dietary restrictions, rather than only providing pantry-specific food items. Many of the food items offered in Simple Zone are not satisfactory to create a complete meal, and frozen pantry dishes would be more suitable and fulfilling. 

Freshman Ava Novak has celiac disease and therefore must use the Simple Zone and Simplified station on a daily basis. “As someone who has a severe allergy and is a picky eater, it would be super nice to see the dining hall have more options for people like me,” Novak said. During visits to the commons, Novak said she spends time searching every food station to find food items that are safe and enjoyable. 

Many students pay almost $4,000 per semester on Tulane’s dining plan, and given this amount, they should expect to find a vast variety of prepared meals that consider their health and dietary restrictions. 

In addition to implementing a wider selection of prepared meals for students with dietary restrictions, Tulane should begin education and programming centered around nutrition. An additional organization should be created within Tulane’s dining services program that focuses on students with dietary restrictions and provides resources for a more fulfilling eating experience. 

Dining services could host events for groups of people with dietary restrictions for them to meet others with similar eating patterns, air grievances and form relationships. These meetings or groups can be platforms to discuss suitable eateries nearby Tulane or additional dining opportunities. It is important to foster a community that is inclusive and provides options for the greatest population of students. Further, in order to best accommodate and recognize students with dietary restrictions, Tulane Dining Services should establish programming centered around their preferences and offer them a wider selection of daily meals.

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