Dining more than a matter of taste

Food is a hot topic around campus. Not a day goes by that one doesn’t overhear others discussing lunch or dinner plans. Our campus offers myriad places to eat for most, but for some, simply grabbing a bite to eat proves more of a challenge.

Our campus is home to people with all types of dietary needs; we have meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans, kosher and halal-only food eaters and more. But we also have many students who must deal with food allergies, and for them, finding a quick bite to eat on campus is difficult.

It would be easy enough to suggest that those with special dietary needs simply bring something from home every day, but that can be boring, and puts a damper on the fun of going out to eat with friends.

UH offers only a few places where you can get a vegetarian meal, but those veggies are stuffed inside of bread, which poses a huge problem for people who can’t eat wheat or gluten, or who avoid simple carbohydrates. People who suffer from wheat and gluten intolerance or allergies have it especially hard, because they must also pay attention to the types of meats in their food, the condiments and sauces – even salad dressing.

Nut allergies are a nightmare as well because nearly all pre-packaged foods are packaged or prepared in a facility that also prepares and packages nuts and foods containing nuts. Nut pastes and powders can be found in just about everything. Some Houston-area schools have banned peanut products because of children’s allergies being so severe. Unless you have attended one of those schools, the idea of not being able to send a kid to school with the proverbial PBJ seems unfathomable, but for those who have, it is just strange.

Fortunately, the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control have informed the public of the increasing number of people with nut allergies, subsequently forcing manufacturers to label their nut-containing products. This has made life a little easier for allergy sufferers to locate the offending product on labels.

It would behoove UH to take special interest in the students’ dietary needs and implement facilities that offer options for everyone. President Renu Khator once mentioned how shocked she was at the food choices offered for students; perhaps this would be another eye opener, and proper measures can be taken. Maybe, if we are lucky, the new UC we will be paying for will house new places with better options for future Cougars.

There are millions of people with food allergies, and millions more without. It would not be fair for our campus to focus on one or the other, just as it would not be beneficial for them to open a restaurant that caters to only one dietary need. Compromise is the key element in unifying students vis-a†-vis food, but just how to get to that point leaves only one option: another survey. Surveys are a valuable way for college students to voice their opinion about their campus. As we have recently experienced with the UC survey, they work, and the students are heard.

Trial and error, along with patience, are what we need because new places to eat, with better, healthier options aren’t going to appear overnight (unless the restaurant fairy pays our campus a visit). Until then, find the foodie within, and grab your friends for a whirlwind ride around town for a tasty bite to eat that doesn’t bite back!

MousaviDin, a communication junior, can be reached via [email protected]

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