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Simple Zone: ORU finds new way to accommodate students’ special diets

Simple Zone provides an area where students with dietary restrictions, like Camden Hanel, can access snacks, condiments, breads and other food items that are free of gluten, tree nuts, peanuts and dairy.

The second week of her first year Camden Hanel had never felt so hungry, malnourished and overall weak. Having only been able to feel safe eating spinach, Hanel had no protein or carbohydrates the first three weeks at Oral Roberts University; she was not able to find food in the Hamill Dining Hall due to her dietary restrictions.


One in seven college students, like Hanel, struggles to eat the food provided by their school’s cafeterias according to Neogen, an international food safety company that provides test kits to detect potentially dangerous substances in food. ORU’s Hamill Dining Hall, however, has been working on meal solutions for these students.


“We have a special diet group that is part of a text message chain where they can call in their meals if they have dietary accommodations that need to be met,” Sodexo District Dietician Diane Robison said. “A special diet chef cooks all of these meals separately to prevent cross-contamination.”


To supplement the special diet program, Sodexo opened Simple Zone this semester. Simple Zone is an area where students with dietary restrictions can access snacks, condiments, breads and other food items that are free of gluten, tree nuts, peanuts and dairy.


“Students who don’t have as severe of allergies or intolerances and aren’t as worried about the cross-contamination now have the option to eat freely within the dining hall, not have to go to a special diet meal and then also access Simple Zone,” said Robison.


Hanel, who cannot have dairy, gluten or processed sugars, joined the special diet program after weeks of only eating spinach during her freshman year.


“I felt like I was never properly nourished,” Hanel said. “People act like, ‘Oh, it’s healthy you’re eating salad.’ But no, I was not getting my protein or carbs, which led to feeling totally awful and tired all the time.”


The meal program has helped regulate her diet going into her sophomore year.


“I really like the sandwich bar,” she exclaimed. “There is gluten-free bread there, so I get to have a sandwich with turkey, salami and spinach.”


For students with food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances, there are many resources to stay well-fed on campus. Students with a diagnosis who are worried about cross-contamination can set up a meeting with Robison, who works for Sodexo. For access to the new Simple Zone, students can complete a survey via a QR code near the door.


For more information about the dietary restrictions program, talk to the chefs at the Homestyle station to get in touch with Robison.

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McKenna Lewis
McKenna Lewis, Staff Writer
I am a double major in Public Relations and Advertising and Graphic Design. I love using writing and art to empower and educate. Other loves include board games, coffee and my cat.
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