On Free Food

If you want college kids to show up somewhere, all you have to do is offer free food.  But as a college kid with food allergies, this can create some problems.   Many times you can’t read the ingredients ahead of time and have to refrain from the free food that everyone else gets.  Other times, if you are perhaps at a conference that you pre-registered for, they might say that they have an allergy safe option only to tell you that they just have gluten free meals available.   So how’s an allergic teen to deal?

Well, the first thing I do is look at the type of event.  If it’s a club meeting, I might just eat dinner before the meeting or pack my own snack.  If it’s a bigger all-day event and you are promised meals, sometimes mentioning your allergies on the registration form is not enough.  On several occasions, I have been added to a list of vegan, vegetarian, or gluten intolerant participants instead of on a separate list for people with allergies.  This can get frustrating, but as long as I have some kind of snack and talk to whoever’s in charge, I can usually get some kind of sustenance for the day.

Recurring events are easier to make accommodations than one-time things.  Two examples of this that I have in college are the Catholic Campus Ministry’s Free Friday Dinner and my dormitory floor’s monthly birthday dinner.  Before the first Free Friday Dinner, I went to the church basement and read the ingredients to everything they make and realized that all components of the pasta dinner were safe for me- even the rolls! This has made my Friday dinners so much more relaxed since I don’t have to worry about special ordering them from the dining hall every Thursday night.  For my dorm’s monthly birthday dinner, I stay safe by being the head of the birthday committee.  This means that I bake (and therefore can eat) the birthday cake and I have input into what food we make together for dinner.  Leadership positions are very helpful for slyly controlling the kinds of food that everyone eats to fit your allergic needs, but hey, it’s keeping me safe and that’s all that matters,

How do you keep safe at events with free food? Let me know in the comments!

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