Sodexo and Students with Allergies


Sophia Muce

Memorial Hall is one of the Sodexo dining halls at CCSU.

Samuel Pappas, Lifestyle Editor

For students with allergies who have a campus meal plan at Central Connecticut State University, dining can come with risks and limitations.

Taylor Briggs is a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. He has been a resident on campus since his freshman year and eats at Memorial Hall at least twice a day. He is also allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, chicken, shellfish, and has gluten sensitivity. With his diet limitations, Briggs frequents the sandwich station.

“I’m used to it, so I always watch closely when they’re preparing my sandwich. If they do something risky, I ask for a new piece of bread, and they’re very polite about it,” he said. “Sometimes, I look away for just a second, and that’s all it takes. I’d have to either pick the crumbs of gluten bread out of my sandwich or get a new one. When there’s a huge line of people behind me during a lunch rush, it’s really stressful.”

Briggs said that when he is exposed to gluten, his most common symptom is a powerful migraine.

“I couldn’t focus enough to go to class. It’s detrimental because I have a lot of math and heavy equation courses,” he said. “Missing one class sets you back a lot. It’s excruciating.”

Despite these issues, Briggs said the staff at Sodexo has accommodated his issues.

“The chefs are very kind and helpful. It’s just sometimes when there are new workers, they don’t follow the same procedure every time and I have to remind them to clean off the countertop,” he said. “It wasn’t until I saw my friend making small talk with some of the staff that I got the courage to ask for help. I have social anxiety, and asking for things on my own is really difficult sometimes.”

Briggs met a Sodexo employee known affectionately on campus by the moniker, “Suspenders Guy,” and was able to widen his menu options thanks to his help.

“They were making these egg sandwiches. Normally I couldn’t eat them, but he cleaned off a part of the grill and was very careful not to contaminate it,” Briggs said. “I was really thankful for the help.”

Jon Small, General Manager of Sodexo at CCSU, says the most important thing for students with allergies is to identify themselves so staff can help them.

“If a student reaches out to dining services and or health services, we work with the student to not only educate them on what is available to them in the dining operations, but also work with them on a case-by-case basis if they need further accommodations,” Small said.

“We do offer gluten-free breads at the deli and the grill, but many students are eating gluten-free as a dietary choice, whereas the students I’ve met with gluten-allergies know that the staff at the deli are often assisted with student workers,” he said. “And there remains a potential for cross-contamination, especially if a student requests the oven to toast their sandwich.”

Small says the Simple Servings station in Memorial Hall is the only place promoting a completely allergy-safe environment from “the time it reaches the backdoor to the time of service.”

“The deli staff do receive training on the proper response regarding procedures for a student that identifies themselves and have been instructed to change their gloves, either sanitize the cutting board or build the sandwich on a plate with a parchment paper liner, and use pre-packaged, gluten-free bread,” Small said. “I’m glad [Briggs] is comfortable reminding the staff if they don’t see it happen that way.”