By Sarah Krichel
Residence students are working with Ryerson Eats to ensure all students dietary needs are met — after months of issues with mislabeling and limited options.
Numerous students have said they would like to see ingredients listed in person or online to be sure that it does not conflict with their dietary restrictions. Additionally, students would like to see less restrictive ingredients in meals which are not pertinent to their nutritional makeup.
Lindsay Christopher, resident at the International Living Learning Centre (ILLC) and first-year journalism student, took action when she found unneeded sliced almonds on her chicken at the beginning of the semester. Christopher has an anaphylactic allergy to nuts and shellfish.
She began asking the students on her floor what dietary limitation they had and found that more students were struggling to find options that suit them, such as halal meats or dairy-free meals.
“We said, ‘This is what the vegans are saying, this is what the vegetarians are saying, this is gluten-free, this is lactose, this is what everyone’s saying — now fix it.’ And they really really have,” said Christopher who discussed the issue with Jason Kealty, residence manager of Ryerson.
Melissa Yu, communications coordinator for food services at Ryerson, said in an emailed statement that Ryerson Food Services prioritizes accommodating students’ dietary restrictions.
“Currently we provide options and identification of foods that are: vegetarian, vegan, halal, and made without gluten. These were the top four needs the campus presented after the 2013 [Food Services] survey, we are considering adding ‘made without dairy’ as a priority,” wrote Yu.
But Christopher doesn’t believe that fixes the problem completely.
“If they had certain pans that were just for chicken or just for beef so that it didn’t cross-contaminate with the halal situation, that would be great,” said Christopher.
Ryerson food services also launched a food survey on April 6, after the initial publication of this story, to seek “meaningful opinions, comments and feedback about food.” Students can fill out the survey online.
First-year professional communications student Corrina Serda said she addressed the issue with Amanda Squire, assistant residence manager, because inaccurate labels are an issue on the foods available at the ILLC, where she lives.
“When [foods] have labels I don’t always believe them, but part of the time something could be vegan but not labelled as vegan, so then I assume it’s not,” said Serda. “That’s one thing, if they just listed all the ingredients, even if they just listed it online.”
Serda said she experienced mislabelling in meals such as a burger that was labelled vegan but had mayonnaise on it.
“They advertised on the website and they had a sign up that said this burger was vegan,” said Serda. “They put [mayonnaise] on it, which it didn’t say they had online or in person. So when I got back to my room and I found it did, it was kind of disappointing.”
Serda said she has also seen a broccoli and cheese soup labelled as vegan in the ILLC Mutual Street Eatery, which she said “doesn’t make sense,” because Ryerson does not offer substitutes such as vegan cheese or fake meats. A Ryerson Eats cook in the ILLC Mutual Street Eatery could not confirm the alleged mislabelling of the soup.
Serda said vegan options have improved after meeting with Squire, but still believes ingredient lists could solve the problem.
Serda said she has had to visit both ILLC and Pitman to find something vegan to eat. “The other thing is just providing more hearty options for people who have dietary restrictions, because I’ve noticed for even the gluten- free stuff, there’s not a really filling option,” said Serda.
Serda said she would also like to see more protein like tofu and fake meats for the vegan options.
Serda said she’s surprised with the lack of education surrounding the vegan diet.
Christopher said she understands the conundrum is hard to deal with because of all the different types of restrictions. “It’s never going to be perfect, but the world is never going to be perfect, and Ryerson does really well with it.”
“But the main thing that sucks is that you have to have a food plan. Because if I didn’t have to, I wouldn’t.”
Clarification: A previous version of this story attributed comments from Ryerson Food Services to Ryerson spokesperson Lauren Clegg. The comments in fact came from Melissa Yu, the communications coordinator for food services. Also, despite Christopher’s comments in this story, it is in fact sometimes possible to opt out of residence meal plans, through a process with Housing that considers food intolerance or allergies.