The food allergen symbols on dining hall menus may seem small, but UT dietitians put great effort into creating them for every menu item to help students with dietary needs.
Registered dietitians Lindsay Wilson and Sotear Kuy work with students who have food allergies to create personalized menus. Students who register through Services for Students with Disabilities can have their meals prepared daily in a separate kitchen at Cypress Bend Cafe or Littlefield Patio Cafe,” Wilson said.
“The students will pre-order their meals, and the staff members prepare their meals to avoid any cross-contact,” Wilson said. “If a student chooses to self-manage their diet on campus, I can meet with them and give tips on how to avoid those food items they may be allergic to.”
Although the dietitians do not create daily menus at dining halls, they work with chefs at the locations to integrate healthier items and host events to educate students on how to make healthier choices, Wilson said.
“We want to be able to have a focus with educating the student community,” Wilson said. “If you have healthy choices available and nobody takes them, then what good are those
Once a month, the dietitians will host student focus groups to get feedback on different menu items, including a vegetarian-specific group, Kuy said.
“It’s pretty much a platform for all of our students to voice their opinion on food items that are vegetarian and vegan,” Kuy said. “We also take feedback on what the students want to see in our dining halls.”
Business honors freshman Varsha Vasu said she has been vegetarian her whole life and appreciates the variety of options in the dining halls around campus.
“It was initially a concern, living in a dorm and not having too many dining options,” Vasu said. “I like to eat at Kinsolving because there is always tofu, hummus and falafel.”
Kuy said she is working on new Asian-inspired menu items for the “Fresh and Simple Taste” line in J2, which will be added to the menu next fall.
“It can be challenging at times, but I definitely like the challenge,” Kuy said. “The bigger picture is, there are these students who once may have been able to enjoy those types of foods, and they can now see them in a different way.”