Making good food choices can be difficult when you have food allergies or intolerances. Making students meal times a little easier is the point behind an eating option, new this year at the dining hall at King's College in Wilkes-Barre. Officials there invited us in to have a look.
You'll find all the usual offerings here: french fries and quesadillas, hot dogs, and home-cooked favorites like pasta and stuffed peppers. Looks good, but freshman Matt Evers can't eat any of it.
"I have severe food allergies to wheat, eggs, nuts, peas and beans," Matt told us. He met us to talk about what's called Simple Servings, the newest food option at the Marketplace, which is King's College's dining hall.
"The fact that Simple Servings has their own plates and utensils and separate equipment for everything- it definitely helps me. Even cross-contamination could put me in a lot of trouble," Matt said.
"We just thought it would be a great fit here, you know, so we can have students not singled out, not feel like they have to go to the back of the kitchen and ask for something special. They can still eat with their friends, and they can eat food that's safe for them," said Mary Wood, who works at King's College.
Wood says Sodexo, the school's food service provider, offered Simple Servings as an option this year.
Susan Hurd is one of the company's regional managers and a registered dietician. She says the number of food allergy diagnoses is increasing.
"We are seeing a more vocal student population, as there is more awareness. College campuses have to address that. And this is one way to do that," Hurd told us.
Simple Servings is run in its own separate area so there's no cross-contact with other foods. Menu items are free of 7 or the 8 most prevalent food allergies, plus gluten.
"The one that we still have in the program is finned fish, because that's actually kind of rare, that reaction, and it allows for a little more protein," Hurd explained.
Having Simple Servings as an option makes life easier- and safer- for Logan Kraus and Kaylan Thibodeau, both busy physicians assistant majors who just don't feel well when they eat the wrong foods.
"Simple servings is where I go to every single day," said Logan.
"It's always my first stop. I can eat a salad or something like that, but it's really easy to eat there because I don't have to worry about it," Kaylan told us.
Simple Servings is offered for lunch and dinner at the Marketplace and isn't just an option for those with food allergies. Campus officials say it's also popular with those who prefer to eat more simply-prepared foods.