Simple Servings, a station specializing in allergen-free meal options, has been a significant success in Liberty University's Reber-Thomas Dining Hall since being rolled out as a pilot site by dining services provider Sodexo last fall. Simple Servings features minimally processed, tasty food options prepared without gluten or seven of the eight most common food allergens: milk, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and wheat.
“The response has been very positive,” says Robin Quay, Sodexo’s registered dietitian for Liberty. “Simple Servings is one of the most popular areas at the dining hall, for students with and without allergies. The food offered there is simple, minimally processed, and delicious. Parents of students with allergies are especially appreciative of the offerings we have for their students…they can send their students to Liberty with the confidence that any dietary requirements will be properly handled.”
Quay and Executive Chef Peter Jerominek regularly update the Simple Servings menu to align with what’s trending for students and ensure plenty of good nutritional options are available. They meet with every student who has dietary restrictions to make sure their needs and likes are met.
“Knowing about customer preferences and limitations allows us to plan our menu to best meet everyone’s needs,” Quay says. “We are happy to explore the dining hall with students and point out options they have both at Simple Servings and throughout the dining hall.”
All staff members are trained about the risks of food allergies and to properly handle foods to avoid cross-contamination. A fresh plate must be used each time at the platform.
“Everything (at Simple Servings) is cooked separately using different pans and utensils to help prevent cross-contamination,” Jerominek explains. “Our platform cooks are trained in food allergies before starting at that platform. We go as far as having one of the platform cooks out at the platform to make sure students aren't cross-contaminating.”
If a student cannot find something they can eat or do not like the selections, they can place a special order.
Quay is available to discuss dietary concerns or nutritional needs with students. She also provides many quality resources online, including a blog and Dietitian Picks, which highlights the most nutrient-dense offerings at each of Liberty’s dining locations, and a cookbook of healthy recipes that can be made utilizing only standard residence hall appliances—a microwave and refrigerator.
At the dining hall and Liberty's Tilley Fresh Market Buffet in Green Hall, signs provide important nutrition information as well as any common allergens that may have been used in preparation.