The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division announced recently that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to college students who have food allergies at Lesley University in Massachusetts.
About 2 percent of adults and 4 to 8 percent of kids in the United States suffer from food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“In the agreement with DOJ, Lesley is required provide gluten- and allergen-free food options in its dining halls, offer special meal plans for students with allergies, and pay $50,000 in damages to the students who filed the claim in 2009, among other measures.
“The Lesley settlement is terrific,” Marilyn Geller, chief operating officer of the Celiac Disease Foundation, tells The Salt. “It puts all universities on notice that they’re going to have to make these accommodations for students with celiac, gluten sensitivity and other food allergies.”…
“By applying the ADA to food allergies, the DOJ has essentially turned food into an access issue – akin to providing ramps for students in wheelchairs.”
“By not accommodating food allergies, you’re barring students from participating in the university,” says Maria Acebal, a lawyer and spokeswoman for Food Allergy Research & Education, an advocacy group. “If you can’t get safe food, how can you study there?”
First off I am surprised university dining halls weren’t already offering allergy-alternative foods. Now maybe that’s because my only experience with a college dining hall was at the University of Georgia, and it’s a really big school with lots of food options
Students with food allergies or nutritionally significant medical conditions (diabetes, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, anemia, hypertension, hypoglycemia, etc) can receive nutrition advisement through private consultations with the Registered Dietitian. To make an appointment regarding specific nutrition concerns or food allergies, please contact Katherine Ingerson, RD, LD at 706-542-7313 or firstname.lastname@example.org….”
“Food Fact Finders
The eight most common food allergens (milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts) are designated in the Food Fact Finders. It is our goal to provide you with information and assistance to manage your food allergies. Every effort is made to instruct our food production staff on the severity of food allergies; however, there is always a risk of contamination. There is also a possibility that manufacturers of the commercial foods we use could change the formulation at any time, without notice. Customers concerned with food allergies need to be aware of this risk. Students with food allergies are encouraged to contact the UGA Food Services Registered Dietitian (706-542-7313) for additional information and/or support.”
It does sound like they want to help the students and work with them but it also sounds like a disclaimer so you don’t sue them if something bad happens.
Elementary schools are so aware of food allergies and so sensitive to them that I guess I didn’t realize that sensitivity decreased as kids got older.
So what do you think: Are food allergies equivalent to a blind person or a person in a wheel chair? Should university dining halls have to offer allergy alternatives for students? Did you or you student ever have an issue with food allergies at a school or college level?