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June 7, 2017

MSU earns national recognition for food allergy program

In late May, at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, Michigan State University was awarded the 2017 Best Overall Food Allergy Program Award from AllerTrain.

“From changing ingredients to remove potential allergens, to implementing nut-friendly dining halls, to the extreme personal care taken by their campus dietitian, it’s clear that MSU’s food allergy program is one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen and deserving of the 2017 Best Overall Food Allergy Program for Universities Award,” said Betsy Craig, chief executive officer of MenuTrinfo.

A leading food allergy and gluten-free training program, AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo honors one restaurant or university with the most comprehensive and effective food allergy program that is at the forefront of serving diners with special dietary needs, including food allergies, intolerance and celiac disease.

MSU has shown long-term dedication to ensuring those dining on campus have safe choices and are well nourished when they Eat at State. “Our team is committed to providing a safe dining environment and diverse options for all university guests,” said Guy Procopio, culinary services director. “We strive to set the industry standard for allergen safety, training and education, and this recognition supports our goal to lead with food, offering made-to-order items to suit every guest’s unique palette.”

Registered dietitian Gina Keilen, who joined the Culinary Services team in 2012, works alongside chefs and dining managers to create a personalized experience for students, faculty, staff, conference attendees and other diners. “The prevalence of allergies on campus continues to climb each semester and, while there was awareness of allergies before I came to MSU, it wasn’t nearly at the forefront like it is today,” Keilen said.

During the past two years, to further their knowledge, more than 600 full-time and student team members from CS and Spartan Hospitality Group completed either the AllerTrain Lite or AllerTrain U courses.

Additionally, collaboration with the purchasing team at MSU Food Stores has played a key role in creating sourcing standards and eliminating allergens as well. Together with Keilen and the CS chefs, they look to source products with cleaner labels and fewer allergens.

Hana Ohlrich, who was diagnosed with celiac disease before starting her freshman year, reached out to Keilen before move in. In response, she received customized information about her options and she was connected with managers and chefs in South Neighborhood, which included her future home, Wilson Hall. Ohlrich wrote,“Not many people take the time to help with celiac and it really meant a lot to know that MSU has someone who cares.”

“As challenging as it can sometimes be, hearing from a student that he or she was able to enjoy a meal or [hearing from] a parent — that we gave them a sense of peace and reassurance, that they chose MSU because of the accommodations available, how we happily surprised them with the personalization and options, especially considering our size — makes it worth it,” Keilen said.

“I received an email from a student recognizing a full-time cook and when I showed it to her, it brought tears to her eyes. A lot of our staff get to know students and guests on a personal level, and it starts feeling like they are serving food to family.”

To educate the general campus community, Keilen and student interns organize wellness events throughout the neighborhoods at MSU and in conjunction with resident assistants in the halls. Those dining on campus also have an online tool at their disposal, MSUtrition, which provides allergen filtering options, ingredients and nutrition facts for a majority of what is served throughout campus each day.

Culinary Services and Spartan Hospitality Group are departments within the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services.

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