Learning how to live with dietary restrictions at Cornell Dining

March 4, 2014

Dietary restrictions are a bigger and bigger part of our lives, and this week the folks at Cornell Dining are trying on some of these restrictions for size. It's called "5 Days," and the managers, chefs, and staff at Cornell Dining are spending five days following one of several dietary restrictions on campus, learning what it's like to eat vegetarian or vegan, eat dairy-free or gluten-free, or eat Kosher.

Cornell Dining director Gail Finan says her staff "adopting a special diet for a week will help us understand the unique preferences and challenges of many students, and enable us to better meet their needs."

Cornell's 104West! multicultural dining hall offers food that fits Kosher and Halal restrictions.Cornell's 104West! multicultural dining hall offers food that fits Kosher and Halal restrictions.Each dining hall offers its own variety of choices, and can accommodate vegetarian and vegan students, students observing Kosher or Halal restrictions for religious reasons, or health restrictions such as gluten-free and dairy-free diets. 

The staff members are split up into teams for the week, and are blogging their experiences as they try following these diets all week on campus as well as at home or at eateries around town. Many Ithaca restaurants have lots of offerings for vegetarian or vegan diners, and some have a selection of gluten-free items. Agava, for example, has gluten-free flatbreads available as part of their special gluten-free menu, and Sangam says most items on its lunch buffet are gluten-free.

A special cooler in North Star Dining has gluten-free breads, waffles, and brownies.A special cooler in North Star Dining has gluten-free breads, waffles, and brownies.More and more people are gluten intolerant, says Cornell Dining's director of nutrition management, Michele Lefebvre. "We’re seeing a lot more food allergies in the younger generation," she says. "Diners can pick and choose from the regular offerings, and the staff is always ready to prepare special items on request."

Executive Chef Steven Miller is on the vegan team, and says, "I know this experience will help me better appreciate what options are available to our vegan customers, as well as give me ideas for new vegan offerings."

Cornell Dining says everyone is welcome to follow along on their 5 Days blog, or comment on their Facebook or Twitter. Find them at dining.cornell.edu.

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