Student Battles Dining Services For Food Equality

Emily Muench is a sophomore Digital Marketing major, Social Media Production and Media Production double minor here at Baldwin Wallace University. She was diagnosed with celiac disease at 12 and has been struggling with BW Dining Services for the past two years. Muench said, “It’s always very inconvenient, it’s always a horrible process trying to get food.”

Muench has been in discussion with Dining Services and the campus nutritionist but the conversations never seem to get anywhere. “I’ve been asking them to do simple things like label stuff and train staff, and keep the gluten free stuff stocked in the fridge, and they have yet to do that, and I asked them to do this before the pandemic,” said Muench.

She spoke about the lack of food options and the struggle she goes through to find options. “They have some labels out, with the tiniest font ever and they don’t say what allergens are in them,” Muench said. “They have the ‘Allergen Friendly Zone’ but they lean on that and they act like that is the solution but there’s nothing filling.”

When Muench started here as a freshman, BW made the promise to accommodate her. At orientation, there were options. Once school started, there was nothing. “I really do eat sandwiches for every lunch and I’m lucky if I get something that’s not that. It’s not filling, I’m never full after eating there and now I’ve stopped eating essentially,” Muench said.

“When you have a food allergy, you already have a predisposition to eating disorders and a complicated relationship with food in general,” she said. Muench spoke about how this situation has left her struggling with mental health due to a lack of food options. “I’m struggling actually really bad… It’s been getting progressively worse. My mental health is tanking because I have no nutrients in my body.”

Muench spoke about how the process begins to take time out of her day and there is always a certain level of uncertainty surrounding her eating habits. “It takes forever, people don’t understand what to do, there’s cross-contamination issues, there’s miscommunication issues,” Muench said, “I don’t trust their food at all.”

Muench took it upon herself to start advocating for this issue and realized it extends to most allergen students on campus. She released a survey which garnered 53 responses from students of varying academic status’ at BW and 44 of these students had different allergies or food sensitivities. Of those 53 students who responded, 16 have had an allergic reaction to food consumed at the dining hall, some of which have led to hospitalization. Muench said, “I think this is an incredibly serious issue and I don’t know how it’s not getting more attention.”

“I should not have to fight this hard to eat,” Muench said.

Muench spoke about how she has noticed some progress and admitted that she must give dining services the benefit of the doubt. “From freshman year, now that I know the staff, that element is better,” she said.

However, there is still a long way to go and change needs to be made. “I would really like just a general apology for the allergen students. Labeling and including options, having some of those changes would just be really great.”