No peanuts, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds please! All us allergy people have our signature lines that were practically our first words when we were learning how to talk. When we were young our parents would read the labels and teach our friends parents how to use our “epi-pens” for sleepovers and team gatherings. As we got older we learned how to read the ingredients of our favorite allergy friendly snacks. Going to restaurants had its perks, but for us allergy people we learned how to say “oh no its alright, I will just eat after” or the old “I totally ate before this” line, when in reality our mouths were watering over that bread you were devouring. For many people the word “college” is scary because it means: leaving home, friends, family and our pets back in our hometown. For a person with food allergies many more struggles come with the word college.
I am here to say, YOU WILL BE OKAY! I know, no ingredients, premade food in a super contaminated kitchen, and no car to run to the super market for your favorite peanut free ice cream. The potential to have a peanut loving, everything bagel loving, sunflower seed spitting roommate is terrifying, but I am here to tell you IT WILL BE OKAY! I have three pieces of advice that have not failed me in my first two years of college yet, they are: find friends who understand, know the best and safest place for you to eat on campus and overstock your room with your go to snacks.
For you parents out there who are nervous about your child going far away (like 9 hours…sorry mom and dad) and having to deal with the allergy struggle alone, do what my family did. All five of us went on a tour of the cafeteria and learned what foods were safe. This made my parents feel better, that I was in good hands, thus giving me comfort. Having the whole family go into the café gave 4 more sets of ears to listen to what the chef was saying, making it hard for some piece of information to be missed.
Lucky for me, all of my friends from home have always been awesome about my allergies. I was hoping this would transfer to my college friend group, and man was I lucky! As part of the volleyball team I had an automatic friend group freshman year, or my personal army against allergens. My college friends made sure my coach bought peanut free snacks and if someone on the team ate something I couldn’t they forced them to use sanitizer. Yes, a little extra but it’s the thought that counts. We are the ones who have grown up with this, not them, so making them feel comfortable even if it is a little intense is totally worth it!
At Saint Vincent, there are two main places to eat on campus, the Shack and the Café. Everyone prefers the Shack; it’s a take-out wrap and salad place with ready to go food. During my long tour of the cafeteria, the head chef mentioned eating in the Shack could be a little risky since there is loads of contamination. Automatic red flag! The café was going to be my new home, none of this shack business. Since the shack is on my meal plan and having the convenience of taking out of the shack was now not a possibility, I investigated an alternative. Using flex at the barista and using flex to pay for a reusable take- out container for the café was the answer. Generally colleges are pretty understanding, you are not the first student to walk into the café with an allergy. You also cannot be super polite about asking what you’re allowed to eat because, believe me; you’ll get sick of eating just the salads in a week. All you must do is ask your questions and be your own advocate!
Basically every student has a personal stash of their favorite little snacks, but for us it’s a must! Coming home late from games or not being able to eat in between classes happens. Having a bagel, rice or frozen vegetables in your freezer is nice, that way you’re not always stuck eating the crackers and chips. Stocking your snack drawer with a mix of filling “real” food and junk food is important. With no access to a car, stocking it with non-perishables like rice and soup that don’t need to be cold allow you to have your snacks for longer, just a helpful little hint!
If you don’t have an allergy try to be understanding to those who do and if you do have allergies try to be understanding to those who don’t. This is new to both of you but there is always a way to make it work.