Last updated on May 4, 2020
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), dietary restrictions are a disability to those with food intolerances and allergies, whether that be to ingredients in foods or the actual foods themselves. It is not just a disability; it is an invisible disability that not many people can see. Also, according to the ADA, physical or mental impairments do not need to be life threatening to constitute a disability. These however could be life threatening. We have ample accessibility to certain foods people can eat, but it is not always that simple. It is especially difficult with group meals. Some foods are not accessible to them in a big group. The lack of accommodations had for the allergic and intolerant is ableist, dangerous, and not to mention illegal.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are only eight foods that cause 90% of allergic reactions. These foods are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat/gluten, and soybeans. But people can be allergic to any food not just these ones. The people who have the least amount of accessibility when it comes to food are kids from kindergarten to high school that buy lunch and college student who have a meal plan. The simple answer to this is not “pack a lunch” especially since some schools require you to have a meal plan. In 2016, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), required that schools and food authorities make accommodations for students with this disability. It required that schools had substitutions or modifications in school meals for children whose diet is restricted. There is a guide provided to different food authorities. Part of that guide is providing special meals to children who have dietary restrictions for lunch and afterschool snacks (if the child is in an aftercare program). To accommodate a food allergy or intolerance, any food offered to the child cannot contain traces or ingredients that could trigger the child’s allergies.
Saint Joseph’s University’s dining hall Campion has recently changed its menu to allow more gluten free options and options for vegans and vegetarians. Campion has its very popular pasta bar; the pasta bar has always served gluten-free pasta upon request. They also post notifications if something contains and ingredient that people could be allergic to and/or if it contains soy or one of the other 8 common foods. On the website, Campion guarantees that they will work with someone personally to accommodate their dietary needs in the best way that fits the student and their life. The purpose of Project Bloom is to create an accessible, comfortable and friendly environment for all people on Saint Joseph’s University campus.
Dietary restrictions are there to keep people safe. A tiny crumb transferred by hands or a cooking instrument during prep could get someone very sick and/or even kill them. The stigma behind these kinds of food allergies and intolerances is that people with these are often isolated and excluded from social events. 1 out of 3 children with these disabilities will be bullied at school. Another fact is that living with celiac disease (allergy to wheat/gluten) affects children by leading them to have lower social identities and how others behave towards them. Everyone needs to work together to make foods accessible to the people with this disability.