Students have expressed concern about cross-contamination and labeling in Rollins’ dining facilities, even though Rollins holds several awards for its inclusive dining, including accolades for vegan and allergy-conscious options.
Shelby Peres (‘20) was on the dining plan at Rollins and struggled to find options that allowed her to eat on campus. Peres has Celiac Disease, an immune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine. It is triggered by the consumption of gluten.
Peres eventually opted out of the on-campus dining plan after petitioning that she was unable to eat full meals safely.
“I would adhere to the little ‘gluten free’ sticker, but I would still get sick,” said Peres. “They were like, ‘Well, it will say gluten friendly, but since it’s not a designated gluten-free station, there’s still cross contamination.’”
Peres experienced issues even when she ate only from the Simple Servings station in the dining hall, which Dining Services said omits the top eight allergens in the country—dairy, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish, and wheat—from its ingredients.
Other students expressed similar concerns about labeling and cross-contamination issues.
Rachel Stern (’22) said, “I have a nut allergy, and the dining hall does not do a very good job of labeling for nuts, and my biggest issue is with the area that is supposed to be nut-free because they sometimes had nuts in those dishes. I have had allergic reactions before, however I do not know what I ate. It wasn’t an obvious nut, but it could have been cross-contamination.”
Instances of mislabeling and cross-contamination in dining facilities across campus have been documented by students as well; students have taken photos of almonds in a broccoli dish at the Simple Servings station, cashews at the Simple Servings station, cupcakes with almonds without nut allergen labels, and items labeled as gluten-free while still containing gluten.
In response to the photos, Cristina Cabanilla, director of Dining Servinces, said, “This appears to be a day when we serve the mainline and simple services from one station. We do this on holidays and weekends when participation is very low. As you can see, the [cashews] are set up as a topping and not mixed with any other food. Also, the station has independent serving utensils to avoid cross-contamination.”
Cabanilla added that Dining Services has taken precautions when it comes to incorporating nuts inside dishes.
“In order to meet the different needs of our customers and ensure that no nuts are used at the Simple Servings station; in addition, we have removed peanuts from all operations except in sealed containers at the C-store,” Cabanilla said. “Occasionally, we will use other tree nuts like cashews or walnuts at stations like vegan, dessert, Classics, or My Kitchen, which will be properly labeled.”
Despite concerns from students, College Consensus, a service that combines the results of reputable college ranking publishers and thousands of student reviews, ranked the Skillman Dining Hall as one of the top 25 college dining halls in 2018.
Every year, menus are revamped in order to best suit students’ dietary restrictions and preferences.
“We work directly with Admissions and the International Students Office to see what the demographics are going to be, and based on that, we utilize the national menu we have with our company,” said Rollins Executive Chef Gustavo Vasconez.
Some students still feel as though their dining options are limited.
“It was really upsetting that they had an ‘international gluten-free day’ earlier this semester,” said Thomas Bennett (‘23). “Like I get what they were going for. But I shouldn’t need a one-day-per-year holiday in order to eat food. All it did for me was show that they could do something and provide options like a gluten-free quesadilla in Dave’s Boathouse, but choose not to.”
This is per the dining services company Sodexo’s policy regarding the Simple Servings station.
Vasconez said that Dining Services works with Accessibility Services and the Office of Residential Life to get student feedback and ensure that students feel safe when eating on campus.
He said that students are free to ask any questions regarding their diet as well as allergen concerns.
As for the Simple Serving station, “it is 100% safe,” said Vasconez. “We have a seperate production space in the kitchen, separate utensils, separate storage, separate everything. The cooks have to take a training certification every year for that station. There is allergen training.”
Rollins is also acclaimed for its extensive vegan options on campus, having received an A+ rating from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA’s) vegan report card, putting it on this year’s PETA dean’s list.
“For the most part, everything is labeled adequately. Some things, however, still lack labels like some vegetables or potatoes which I guess we are just supposed to assume there is no dairy there,” said Ashley Kurtyb (‘23), who adheres to a vegan diet. “Rollins is definitely far beyond other schools in this category.”
Stern also requested further labeling: “I’m also vegan, so if I don’t eat from the vegan section now, there is not really much I can eat at the CC. They don’t have any labels out for what is in their ingredients for the vegan dishes.”
For students wanting information regarding calorie content or nutrition information in their meals, barcodes located on the wooden menu boards near each food station can be scanned directly into the MyFitnessPal app.
The Dining Services comment box can be found at https://dining.rollins.edu/contact/, and Dining Services is open for any comments, recommendations, or suggestions.
Community members can also email Dining Services at RollinsDiningServices@rollins.edu.