UO live- in requirement has potential for problems for student dietary restrictions
University of Oregon’s new freshman live-in requirement has raised questions whether the university can accommodate the freshmen’s special dietary needs
Many students have health and religious restrictions that limit what they can eat
Leah Andrews, the Director of Marketing and Communication for UO Housing has worked to understand student’s needs.
“Because food is so much a part of someone’s community and experience, that’s something that we’ve always worked with when students have special requests,” said Andrews. “And if it’s not possible, then they would be eligible for an exemption.”
Incoming freshmen with dietary restrictions can apply to be exempt from the live-in requirement. Those requests are reviewed by a board of representatives from various university departments.
Andy Gitelson is the executive director of Oregon Hillel, who worked with housing to understand the needs of students with dietary restrictions. Students in both Jewish and Muslim communities are required to adhere to particular food laws.
“There’s just not a lot of options for us here in Eugene,” Gitelson said. “There are no Kosher restaurants per se, and none of the dining halls could ever pass as Kosher. So we’ve talked to housing about trying to find some pre-packaged options.”
While the university’s Jewish communities aren’t as large as other universities, the new live- in requirement could cause a potential problem for Jewish freshmen students looking at UO.
“Ideally if the university sees its Jewish and Halal communities grow, they will probably want to consider what other universities like Indiana University or Penn State that have larger Jewish populations with a lot more students who follow the dietary restrictions [and have] come up with a singular dining facility that fits the needs,” said Gitelson.
When a student faces a challenge like Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine when gluten is eaten, it can be daunting for them to move into a hall where they’re one among thousands of students that need to be fed.
Those in charge of the food choices for the halls are prepared to meet the needs of a variety of student diets and restrictions, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. The Director of Food Services Tom Driscoll understands the concerns that students have when coming into a new situation like the live- in requirement.
“I don’t think there’s any blanket approach that works for everybody,” Driscoll said. “I think that it’s best to meet with the individual, find out where their dietary needs are, see how we might be able to meet those and make everyone feel included and comfortable on campus. This is certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ kind of diet program.”
Follow Erin Carey on Twitter: @elcarey
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