After dining courts shifted to takeout-only this fall, students with specific needs say they face fewer options than in years past.
Each dining court provides a set number of meal options. Students swipe their PUID, choose which option they want and get in the respective serving line. With between four and six lines in every dining court, only one is dedicated to providing vegan options.
These options are even more limited than in the past. In previous years, students could mix and match what they wanted to eat. This fall they must pick from one of several pre-planned plates.
Moreover, while vegetarian students have a few options per meal, vegan students have just one, according to the Purdue Dining app.
“I have some vegetarian friends,” Hunter Skelton, a sophomore in the College of Pharmacy, says. “They aren’t too happy about all of the variety. Like my friend, she was talking about how it’s just tofu.”
Skelton said buffet-style dining courts allowed everybody, especially students with dietary restrictions, to create a healthy plate to fit their tastes.
Students now say making a healthy meal has proven to be a challenge, especially when a student doesn’t choose every option within their limited line.
“To be a full meal, I usually look to make sure at least three of the food groups are represented,” said Adam Huffield, a lecturer in the Department of Nutrition Science.
Huffield said all of the items offered in one line together creates a well-rounded meal, but when students pass on certain items, the pre-planned plate of nutrients is fractured.
“Let’s say I want to get a salad and chicken,” said Will Pavlick, a sophomore in the College of Science. “That’s not always an option. So there’s not a lot of ways to make your own plate in the healthiest way.”
Limited food options can be especially pressing for students who, as Huffield puts it, live specific “eating lifestyles.” Lauren Goldman, a sophomore in the College of Education, finds it particularly difficult to adhere to her diet.
“For me, I try to stick to a gluten-free diet, and that’s definitely been harder this year,” Goldman said. “Luckily, I don’t have any allergies, but I can’t imagine how awful it’s been for people who do.”
Though students have a limited variety of food options, Huffield stressed the importance of students making the extra effort to vary the foods they eat.
“Variety is absolutely critical,” Huffield says. “If we limit ourselves to like 10 foods, there’s no doubt we’re missing some nutrients.”
“My recommendation is just realize that our current setting is temporary and maybe try to adjust your expectations,” he added. “Allow yourself a little bit more freedom, dietary-wise.”
Purdue Dining and Culinary could not be reached for comment.