The lack of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options in Englar Dining Hall

The clarity station in Englar Dining Hall (Nikhil Niyogi / McDaniel Free Press)

In the Englar Dining Hall at McDaniel College, students have seen a lack of vegan, vegetarian and gluten free food served there. There does not seem to be enough options to suit their dietary needs and tastes. They could do better with providing more gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian food. 

For gluten free students, even though we do not have a lot of them on campus, Glar will  serve one or two very good dishes on occasion, but other than that, they serve basically the same items every week. They serve the same kinds of food in the gluten free clarity and international foods main meal sections of the dining hall. Every Monday, they serve some squash medley and some devil’s chicken. Every Tuesday, they serve tacos and rotisserie pork. Every Wednesday, they serve barbecue meat, either pulled pork or beef. Every Thursday, they serve terror tenders which are not gluten free and also some roasted beef. Every Friday, they serve rotisserie turkey. There could be more of a variety of gluten free food. 

“There’s like a tiny, tiny little section of gluten free stuff, but they don’t really advertise that and again, this doesn’t really pertain to me, but if I was someone in that position, I think that would probably be something I’d want to see,” said freshman Steve Angel.

For vegan and vegetarian students, there are quite a few of them. Glar has been okay with serving the right amount of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free food, but maybe they could do even better with the quality, quantity, and frequency with providing and serving more of the vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free food. 

Vegetarian Alexis Dudley has suggestions for improving the dining experiences for people with food restrictions. “To improve Glar could be more accurate on their online menus regarding what is coming up on the menu for the week and label what is gluten free, vegan etc., label signs correctly for what is gluten free, vegan, etc. Personally, I’ve noticed a wrong sign in Glar that didn’t mark a veggie burger as vegetarian thus scaring me into thinking I was eating meat. When labeling these signs, make sure they are 110% correctly labeled so no one who is restricted and allergic faces a consequence for eating at a dining hall that every student on campus is forced to pay for,” said Dudley.

They also talk about some of the things they are currently able to eat in Glar.  “I eat veggie burgers, fries, and pizza every time I go to Glar. Veggies are a side not a meal unless prepared like one. They should also work on making better tasting food and focus on seeing these alternatives as open to everyone instead of an inconvenience for a small group,” said Dudley.

If the dining hall can try to advertise their gluten free section, then that can probably get more people to try the food. Right now, there are not a lot of long lines for this section, only for the burger section and international food section.

There is some demand to have the dining hall provide a survey so that they can see what others want to eat and that this would allow students to get a say in what they want to eat rather than just eating whatever is there. 

“Maybe give out a survey or something so that everyone else can fill out what their preferences are so that they have a distribution of answers of how they apply it to their foods and make it possible for everybody,” said sophomore Noah Carpenter.

Another student agrees with the survey option.

“Maybe just have people fill out a form so that they have more of a stand to like where people are eating, what they are eating and stuff, so that they know what to make or options to have,” said freshman Catherine Miller.

One student feels that there could possibly be more options. “I would say there could be more options available to just everyone with different allergies,” said junior Tristan Cook.

One student feels there could be more advertising in some of the sections of the dining hall. 

If one would know what the dining hall is serving and then students know in advance what food they will expect, then they can choose to either go to the dining hall and have that particular kind of food based on the online menu or not go to the dining hall at all.

Kevin Laster, the director of the dining hall and Brian Smith, the executive chef of the dining hall also talked about what the current situation is. The dining hall serves dishes that try to cater to all of these food preferences. 

“We offer one whole station, breakfast, lunch, and dinner that is free of the different allergens as well as desserts, as well as all of our locations like the Pub and Casey’s Corner. Gluten free is impossible, as you can see, we use the term, “Gluten Sensitive” that is seen on all of our foods and free from as much gluten as possible,” said Kevin Laster.

“There’s a company that can certify establishments as gluten free and have the label under packaging that says, “Gluten Free.” We are not certified as a gluten free establishment, so we use the term, “Gluten Sensitive. If a dish is labeled gluten sensitive, wheat ingredients are not used in that dish, but we can’t guarantee the 100% efficacy if there is no gluten in the product,” said Brian Smith.

There are a few ways that Glar is mindful of special eating habits. They are currently serving gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian food to students with those diets or allergies or just for students to try them if they like.

“Any food items that are served on the clarity station. We produce food free of eight major allergens. We also have gluten free and vegan desserts, gluten free and vegan breakfast items, a salad bar, and a specialty salad station where we can produce special items. Also, myself, Kevin, and the other chefs are available for any special requests’ students have. We have two students who we provide special diet-based meals for now,” said Smith.