Moving to a college with a meal plan can be problematic for students with food allergies, celiac disease, or food intolerance. At home, students and their families have more autonomy over the preparation of food, so a less-controlled environment can prove stressful for students with food sensitivities. However, many universities have adopted food allergy safety procedures in recent years.
Each university in this ranking provides a number of accommodations for students with allergies and intolerances, setting them apart from other institutions with less extensive safety measures. Many of the schools on this list feature special food stations free of the eight main food allergens, and some schools boast cooking areas that are allergen free. It is important to parents and students to find a school that will take proper safety measures for students.
Featuring four dining halls with official gluten-free certification, Syracuse University is certified by Kitchens with Confidence (KwC), the top allergen and gluten-free certification agency. All prep surfaces in the dining halls are tested quarterly by KwC, and all kitchen staff must undergo proper training. New menu items must be approved, and any foods found noncompliant must be recalled.
Syracuse works hard to reduce the anxiety that gluten-free students experience by verifying the safety of dining halls on campus with a credible, renowned third party. Food services staff at Syracuse also design specialized dining plans for students.
Georgetown University boasts allergy-friendly dining halls and student groups for students with food allergies. Gluten-free students on campus can join Gluten-Free Foodies, a student organization that sponsors gluten-free potlucks, dinners, and cooking competitions. The organization works with dining services to develop allergen-free food selections on campus.
Dining services at Georgetown allow students with food allergies to work with nutritionists and kitchen staff to create dining plans for their dietary needs. The university's dining halls offer allergy-friendly food stations where students can order food prepared away from common allergy triggers. Kitchen staff are all thoroughly trained on common food allergies and how to avoid cross-contact with different ingredients.
At Cornell University, all foods that contain major food allergens are clearly labeled. Gluten-free foods are clearly labeled so gluten-intolerant students can easily identify which foods are safe for them, and kitchen staff create many menu items without gluten. The dining halls also feature gluten-free stations, providing access to allergen-safe condiments and appliances like microwaves and toasters.
Risley Dining Hall on Cornell’s campus is certified 100% gluten free, tree nut free, and peanut free, and Cornell kitchen staff collaborated with Nima to create gluten-free menu items. The kitchen is KwC-certified, so all workers undergo extensive training to ensure they understand common food allergies and how to avoid cross-contamination.
University of Alabama
The University of Alabama features dining options for students with food intolerances. Kitchen staff managers work with students to develop individualized food plans. Managers focus on providing individualized customer support and on-location, real-time information for the recipes and ingredients each customer is interested in.
At the entrance of every food service operation on campus, students can find pictures of the managers. This helps students easily identify the person they should contact to discuss their dietary needs. All dining services team members are trained in food allergy awareness and offer a variety of options for students with food allergies.
University of Arizona
The University of Arizona strives to provide viable meal options for students with food allergies. Not only can students control what they eat on campus, they can also learn how to cook themselves by taking culinary crash courses led by student chefs. Culinary courses take place at Cooking on Campus events and often include gluten-free recipes.
The cooking courses archive their recipes online, allowing students to cook their meals at home on surfaces that haven't come in contact with allergens. Campus kitchen staff is thoroughly trained in food allergy safety.
Vanderbilt University provides many options for students with food allergies, especially gluten-free students. The campus features Munchie Marts convenience stores where students can purchase snacks using their meal card. Munchie Marts has a gluten-free section that allows students to purchase popular gluten-free snacks and microwaveable meals.
Vanderbilt has its own school dining app that students can download to make dining with allergies easier. The app enables students to submit specific dining requests to kitchen staff, outlining any allergies or intolerances they have, providing them with a meal that is safe to eat. Students with food allergies can also register with disability services to safely order their food and ensure there is no cross-contact with allergens. The kitchens are equipped with a special preparatory area that is allergen-free.
Michigan State University
|East Lansing, MI||
At Michigan State University, all chefs, full-time cooks, managers, and student supervisors -- more than 600 members of the food service team -- have a five-year food allergy training certification. Training covers the eight main food allergies, intolerances, celiac disease, what to do in case of an allergic reaction, how to administer epinephrine, and prevention of cross-contact with allergens. Michigan State also has a registered dietitian on staff to help students with food allergies navigate dining halls.
Students are asked to share their dietary needs with their resident advisers (RA) in writing at the beginning of the school year during the first floor meeting. Students can also speak with hall staff before or during any event to ensure they have safe food options. RAs are given information regarding allergies and reactions to help keep students safe and healthy.
Kent State University
Kent State University works to maintain a safe environment for students with food allergies. Students can contact the disability office to process food allergy or celiac disease accommodation requests. Students are responsible for communicating their needs to dining staff so they can ensure safe food options are provided. The campus provides prescriptions for epinephrine and seasonal allergy shots.
Healthcare facilities on campus stock undesignated epinephrine. The epinephrine is prescribed to the college or university instead of one particular student and is kept on hand in case a student experiences anaphylaxis. Campus emergency responders also carry epinephrine. Kent State features resident life programs that allow students with food allergies to request safe food alternatives for dorm events.
Marquette University provides students access to ingredient information on made-to-order meals. These meals are commonly available in the grill or deli and students with specific dietary requirements can preorder their meals through the registered campus dietitian. Self-serve food like the salad bar, pizza and pasta bar, or chili barc also post ingredients. The campus features a station for vegetarians and vegans as well.
Made-to-order meals with dietary requirements are prepared in a safe area that prevents cross-contact with allergens. Marquette features Simple Servings, a food station free of peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, milk, and gluten. Lunch and dinner menus at the station change each day. All side dishes are vegan and contain no milk, eggs, or meat products.
University of Michigan
|Ann Arbor, MI||
At the University of Michigan, students can preorder custom meals online, over the phone, or through text. Dining services staff members are trained annually in AllerTrain courses by MenuTrinfo, as well as university-developed training, which covers food allergy awareness basics like avoiding cross-contact.
The university features a registered dietitian on staff who helps students with food allergies navigate dining halls. RAs can request ingredient and allergy information for Michigan Dining catering programs, and inclusive events offer students with food allergies the opportunity to request safe food alternatives.
|West Lafayette, IN||
Students at Purdue University can contact kitchen staff via phone or email to request special preparations in advance of their arrival. Entryways to campus dining locations prominently display signage to direct those with food intolerances to staff who can assist them.
Dining court staff receive allergy awareness training when hired. Each month, hourly staff members discuss Allerstar training modules and supervisory staff participates in AllerTrain University classes. Training explains the severity of food allergies and celiac disease and the importance of how to properly clean surfaces and materials to prevent cross-contact.
|New York, NY||
Columbia University has a station free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, milk, and gluten. All dining service staff members are trained at least once a year with a training program developed by Columbia. The training gives staff an extensive look at food allergy safety and awareness. Training is administered by a registered dietitian.
Aside from training dining staff, the registered dietitian helps students find safe food options to match their dietary needs at campus dining halls. The university tries to match students with similar food allergies in the same dorm rooms and works with students to change roommate assignments when needed.
Pennsylvania State University
|State College, PA||
Pennsylvania State University ensures that ingredient information is available for all dining hall food. Made-to-order stations allow students to request meals with specifications necessary for their diet restrictions.
Chefs, managers, and full-time dining employees receive training through AllerTrain. Students are encouraged to share allergy information with kitchen staff, who can ensure that meals are prepared appropriately. Staff stays proactive about reducing the risk for cross-contact with allergens.
Stanford University offers separately prepared meals to students with food allergies or intolerances. Students can use an online portal to order custom meals 24 hours in advance, and the menu has a variety of dishes available. Food is prepared on designated allergy-friendly equipment.
Stanford also features allergy-friendly food stations in dining halls which are free of sesame, gluten, milk, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, tree nuts, and peanuts. Dining service staff is are trained at least once a year through AllerTrain and Stanford's own food allergy training. All managers and chefs are certified by a registered dietitian on staff.
University of Southern California
|Los Angeles, CA||
Not only does the University of Southern California train their dining services staff on food allergy safety, they also provide training to RAs. Food service staff members, including chefs, managers, registered dietitians, and hourly staff, are trained on hiring and must renew their training periodically. Training courses are administered through AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo and cover the basics of celiac disease and food allergies, how to read food labels, how to avoid cross-contact, and emergency response. RAs undergo AllerTrain resident adviser training to understand the severity of food allergies.
Students should work with the campus disability office to process food allergy and celiac disease accommodation requests. The registered dietitian on campus will contact the student's doctor to complete a dietary needs form.
George Mason University
George Mason University boasts allergy-friendly food stations at the dining halls, which have no peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, milk, and gluten. Dining service staff are trained once a year through AllerTrain courses and through George Mason’s own training program. Training covers vital topics including avoiding cross-contact, food allergies, celiac disease, intolerances, emergency procedures, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, cleaning and sanitizing, and how to properly store food.
RAs are also trained to ensure student safety in the residence halls. Programs offered in residence halls often include food, so training RAs to properly respond to the needs of students with food intolerances ensures availability of safe alternatives.
University of Washington
The University of Washington offers students with food allergies special accommodations: Students are able to submit requests for roommate assignments to match students with the same food allergies. Students are also able to easily request a new room or roommate due to their food allergy or intolerance.
Resident life programs that include catered food can prove challenging for students with food sensitivities, but students can communicate with RAs to arrange for alternative food choices. UW RAs are trained through AllerTrain to recognize common food allergens, symptoms of anaphylaxis, and emergency response protocol.
East Tennessee State University
|Johnson City, TN||
East Tennessee State University employs procedures to lower cross-contamination risks in self-serve and made-to-order food stations. Students with food allergies can work with the school's registered dietitian and head chef to create a personal meal plan, and staff is trained to ensure proper safety procedures are followed during food preparation. Students registered with disability services can preorder their meals.
Dining halls feature allergy-friendly stations, which ban specific ingredients including those in the top eight allergens: milk, gluten, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts. Dining services staff members are trained upon hiring through AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo and a program developed by the university. Training covers the seriousness of celiac disease and food allergies as well as the proper cleaning methods to prevent cross-contact.
Registered dietitians at Liberty University work with students with food allergies to help them navigate dining halls and explore safe food options. The dietitians ensure students understand procedures and available resources to provide them with safe food. The disability office processes all food allergy and celiac disease requests.
The health services department on campus offers seasonal allergy shots, allergy testing and diagnosis, and prescriptions for epinephrine. When dining service staff members are hired, they undergo training through AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo and ServSafe Allergen by the National Restaurant Association. Training covers avoiding cross-contact, recipe accuracy, and anaphylaxis.
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont boasts allergen-free dining for students. Residential dining halls have areas called MyZone for students with gluten, nut, and lactose issues, where food is prepared without allergen contact.
Kitchen staff is trained through FARE, GIG, and the FDA in mitigating cross-contamination and emergency allergy response. UVM's campus also offers a gluten-free club for students to meet with other gluten-intolerant students at special cooking events.
University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire features gluten-free zones in three campus dining halls. These zones have microwaves, refrigerators, and toasters, the use of which is restricted to only gluten-free foods. Dining halls also provide prepackaged gluten-free items, including bread, granola bars, waffles, desserts, condiments, and cereal.
Students can preorder meals at UNH by contacting staff chefs about their dietary restrictions. This ensures their food is allergen-free and prepared on a properly-cleaned surface.
Wesleyan University understands that self-serve food stations can pose a threat to students with food allergies: The buffet-style layout makes it difficult to monitor and prevent allergen cross-contact. To avoid health risks, dining staff allows students with food allergies to request food from backup containers that have been stored safely.
The dining halls also feature allergy-friendly stations that only serve food free of gluten and other common allergens. Students can request custom meals via email prior to their arrival. Dining service staff members and RAs receive food allergy safety training, informing them about the basics of food allergies, safe storage processes, and avoiding cross-contact.
Westfield State University
Featuring dining halls that provide full access to ingredient information for made-to-order and self-serve items, Westfield State University pays close attention to the dietary needs of food-sensitive students. Dining staff takes necessary precautions to separate common food allergens from other ingredients and keep food surfaces cleaned properly.
Students can pre-order their meals in advance and pick them up at a specific time. They must meet with a registered dietitian or executive chef to create dietary plans. Allergy-friendly stations are free of peanuts and tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, wheat, soy, milk, and gluten.
Williams College was one of the pilot schools in the Food Allergy Research and Education program. Emergency responders on campus carry undesignated epinephrine to treat students with food allergies. Williams also offers food allergy management care, seasonal allergy shots, and epinephrine prescriptions. The school matches students with similar food allergies for room assignments and allows students to change room assignments if necessary.
Dining halls have a registered dietitian on staff to help students with food allergies navigate the dining halls on campus. All dining services staff members receive training to understand food allergies, gluten intolerance, and cleaning prep surfaces.
|Saratoga Springs, NY||
Of 14 potential accommodations for students with food allergies, Skidmore College offers 12. One of the original members of the Food Allergy Research and Education program, Skidmore prides itself on supporting students with food allergies. The college’s dining services provide ingredient information for made-to-order meals and self-serve food. They also observe safety procedures to decrease the risk of cross-contact in kitchens.
Skidmore’s dining services ensure that preorder meals are available to all students with food allergies and that there are inclusive resident life programs with allergen-free food. Roommate accommodations can be requested by students with food allergies and the campus disability office can process all food allergy or celiac disease accommodation requests.
To compile our list of schools with the best dining halls for people with allergies, we drew data from the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website. FARE works to make dining halls allergy friendly, listing 14 possible accommodations for students with food sensitivities. As we created our rankings, we evaluated how many of the 14 FARE options are available. In addition, we factored in schools with unique features, like special certifications or allergen-free equipment.