A college dining hall provides students with a very limited selection. With mystery meats, undercooked vegetables, and frugal cereals, dining halls oftentimes leave little to be desired. If your school’s dining hall is anything like mine, you know what it’s like deciding which meal option is the least questionable.

Don’t get me wrong, other schools are #blessed with great meal plans and delicious options (like these schools). However, the dining hall lifestyle is even more restrictive for students with food allergies. Particularly, students with a dairy allergy.

I want to disclose that I am not a student with this allergy, but can attest to the experiences of my peers. I sat down with my good friend Natalie, a student at SJU, to ask her about her experiences dealing with a dairy allergy.

Dairy Allergy

Photo by Aakanksha Joshi

A dairy allergy means avoiding foods that contain dairy by-products, or experiencing discomfort or reactions. Those allergic to dairy should avoid foods that contain butter, milk, cheese, yogurt, etc. Some people are so sensitive, that even a small amount can cause them discomfort. “It’s like having rocks in your stomach,” says Natalie.

A dining hall can be a nightmare for college students with dairy allergies. Options are scarce when you have to avoid so many foods. Constantly asking the workers, “Is this cooked with butter?” can be equally frustrating when they don’t know the answer.

This allergy restriction doesn’t mean those affected have to resort to a salad for every meal. Students with a dairy allergy can be quite creative when it comes to meals (you try the diet for yourself here), and manufacturers are starting to follow suit.

Thankfully, more food companies have caught on to this growing concern among consumers. Ben & Jerry’s recently came out with a dairy-free line of ice creams. Produce and dairy sections of grocery stores are beginning to distinguish dairy-free options with labels, and introduce a number of dairy-free brands and products. If you’re going to try these products, Natalie recommends the coffee flavor from Ben & Jerry’s new line.

Dairy Allergy

Photo courtesy of benjerry.com

However, it is time for the college dining halls to take action by providing alternatives to students with dairy allergies. Necessary changes have been made for gluten-free students, the same should be done in this circumstance. Natalie suggests, “[The dining hall employees] already list the nutritional facts for meals, they can simply display the ingredients, as well, to clearly communicate to students what they’re eating.”