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Despite cafeteria renovations, students with dietary restrictions still struggle with limited options on campus

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By Raviya Singh

Despite Ryerson University’s efforts to accommodate students who have dietary restrictions with updates to the Pitman Hall cafeteria, those with specialized diets are still struggling with limited food options on campus.

Vegan and vegetarian food station are among the new stands Ryerson Eats installed in Pitman Hall this year. But despite the new stands, students told The Eye there’s still lots of room for improvement—especially when students have to pay thousands of dollars for a meal plan that doesn’t accommodate their dietary needs.

Eliana McKenzie, a first-year business management student who lives in Pitman Hall, said she’s had issues finding meals at the dining hall because of her vegetarian diet.

“I have to have a meal plan, but there is barely anything for me to eat,” McKenzie said. “It seems like they put out the salad bar and then think that is enough.”

There have been days Mckenzie hasn’t eaten because there aren’t any options, she said. “I paid so much money for this meal plan and I can’t even eat a majority of it.”

Students definitely shouldn’t have to pay for a meal plan that consists of foods they can’t eat, said Daniel Martinez, a third-year sociology student and the manager of RU Veg, a vegan group on campus.

“It’s unfair that they have to pay the same price for meal plans while being considered an afterthought,” he said.

Although the vegan options on campus are growing, issues with variety still remain, said Martinez, adding that there are easy solutions to make campus meals more accessible to vegan students.

“There are some things on the menu that can be easily made vegan but are not, like [with] tofu,” he said, adding that making tofu a protein option is an easy way to make dishes available to both vegetarians and vegans.

Leaving off condiments like butter and cheese on a dish, which can be added later by students who want them, would also help, Martinez said.

Lauren Dunlap Sciacchitano, a second-year medical physics student and vegetarian, said she has also had a tough time figuring out what items contain egg, something she restricts in her diet.

One of Sciacchitano’s biggest concerns is that she’s forced to email food services every time she wants to find out whether a food item contains egg, because oftentimes cafeteria staff cannot provide her with a definitive answer.

“Campus food is definitely fresher [and of] higher quality but sometimes I leave the dining area wanting to cry because I’m usually tired and hungry and I’m expected to literally write an email every single time I want to know if something has egg in it,” Sciacchitano said.

“I think they really need an online nutrition [and] ingredient database similar to restaurants. It would be way less stressful to check the menu, look up the ingredients and then get in line for food,” she said.

She said she started going to Metro since they offer 10 per cent off discounts to students on certain weekdays and their food packaging lists ingredients.

Voula Cocolakis, executive director of University Business Services at Ryerson, said that the university is currently working with a nutrition intern to create a database listing the ingredients of popular items in the cafeterias on campus.

The university, she said, is also planning on launching an engagement program to receive student feedback on campus eateries and the meal plan programs at Pitman cafeteria and the International Living and Learning Centre dining hall.

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