Simply Made, Worry Free
With the fall semester in full swing, students are beginning to look for healthier, better alternatives for dining options to help them power through busy days and nights. The newest addition to Fountain Dining Hall, the Simply Made Station, is one such answer to these calls for alternatives on campus.
Located in the far left of the serving section of Fountain Dining Hall, the Simply Made Station features foods free of the top 9 allergens: dairy, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and sesame, and everything is served directly onto a clean plate to avoid cross-contact. By giving students with allergies a designated space to visit, the hope is that they will feel safer and better about their meal choices while also having more options for what they eat.
Lauren Smith, the director of nutrition and wellness at NC State, shared that the Simply Made Station was an idea that came after talking to students with allergies who said it was “hard to find options” that met their needs, or that it was the ‘same option every day,” and she wanted to alleviate some of that. Lauren also shared that she’s noticed while talking with students that “if you have one allergy, you likely have at least a few others,” which means that making a dish that avoids one prevalent allergen but contains another isn’t enough.
With NC State’s largest freshman class ever, there has been an uptick in students who have concerns about dining options; due both to allergies and a variety of other health reasons. Lauren emphasized that the Simply Made Station is a place where students with allergies “can find a safe and fully balanced plate.” Every day for lunch and dinner there is a lightly seasoned protein, gluten-free grains, and vegetables, so students can “find everything that they would want without risk of cross-contact.” Students can also use the Simply Made Station to build gluten-free grain bowls or salads. Current menu options include stuffed mushrooms, carved flank steak, polenta and veggie cakes, and grilled chicken.
In the past, Fountain has had allergen-free options scattered throughout the dining hall in hopes that students wouldn’t feel singled out by their choices. There still are many options throughout Fountain that are free of one or several allergens, however, concerns about cross-contamination or multiple allergens have decreased significantly with the introduction of the Simply Made Station.
Director of Residential Dining, Keith Smith, shared that going to an individual place, though, actually makes many students with allergies feel safer about their dining choices, and ultimately makes eating in Fountain a less stressful experience for them. The Simply Made Station is also paired with the purple Worry Free Stations that have been present at the campus dining halls for several years now and offer gluten-free bread, desserts and other alternatives.
Students without allergies have also discovered the station as a way to eat cleaner, as well. Smith also said that he’s heard many students talk about the station as “healthy food” in Fountain, and while there are many healthy options he admits that “there’s not a lot of added salt or sauces, and nothing at the Simply Made Station is fried.”
And for students who don’t have allergies, there has been a pretty innovative approach to the station; many students at lunch go through the line and get a clean plate filled with proteins and vegetables, then turn toward the main salad station in Fountain to get more toppings or a dressing that contains dairy. As always, NC State students have taken a think-and-do approach, building on the options they are given to make a meal that best suits their individual needs.
With it being so new, the Simply Made Station is still evolving to best suit the needs of students. Both Lauren and Keith strongly encourage students to communicate feedback and ideas that they have through the dining website or the comment board at the entrance to Fountain Dining Hall. Students with allergies are also encouraged to contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.