Introduction

So I wanted this cheesecake…

So I wanted this cheesecake…

I lost my faith in the Second Cup about a year ago when I wanted cheesecake.

“Does it have any nuts?” I asked

“I dunno. Hey, dude, does this have nuts?” The guy behind the counter turned and asked his partner, and his partner answered confidently with a “No, its just apple cinnamon. That’s crumble and sugar on the top.”

Well, I bought the cake, but it only took me a few short moments on my own time to discover that in fact, yes, there were chopped nuts on top.

This is never fun news when you’re allergic to them.

….yay….

It’s hard to have allergies if you go to U of T. This hit home further when I wanted to order soup at a campus café, and no one on staff knew what sort of vegetables were used in the soup. I was pointed to the woman in charge, who simply shrugged.

Everyone who has a food allergy knows that eating isn’t just eating, instead it’s a process of navigation, and that safety comes before experimentation every time you decided to eat in a public space.

Likewise, students with a food allergy are more than aware that public school is over, the real world is now, and that there is no one to coddle and protect them from harmful foods. They are also aware that other university students like nuts, or various reaction-causing vegetables, and want to be served them on campus. However, knowing this only makes eating on campus less fun.

But things at universities across Canada are changing. Topix and Allergic Living, in two respective articles, have celebrated the fact that at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, regarding the student/allergy dilemma, presents several solutions. One is a main cafeteria with a no nuts/no peanuts policy, and the second is cluster housing for those with serious allergies (which essentially means a safe allergen free zone on campus). Carleton University in Ottawa also gets kudos for having eliminated nuts from the main residence dining hall menu. Furthermore, Carleton’s Student Emergency Response Team (CUSERT) proudly announces on its website that as of on Feb. 3 2006, its volunteers were certified to administer EpiPens. This makes them one of only several SERTS at a Canadian university to be able to do so. Hamilton’s McMaster became the first in 2003.

The University of Toronto is slightly behind these initiatives, and for students living in residence who have food allergies, the school advises them to, “work with the food services company to find appropriate dining choices”, a plan that is not always foolproof, something discovered by Christine Creese according to the Off to College-With Allergies article by Amy Cameron. Despite discussions with staff, it was not unusual for Creese, a U of T student, to feel sick after meals. After my experience with some of the food service staff here at U of T, I’m not really very surprised. A lot of people don’t know what is in which food, and are too busy to care.

But our university’s public attitude towards the special ‘food needs’ of students isn’t uncaring. In November, U of T was named Canada’s most “vegetarian friendly university” in an online competition, a boon to any student who can’t eat meat at school due to religious or ethical reasons. In a bid to soothe students’ sense of social justice, on September 19, 2006, the school declared that, “U of T (has) proudly announced an initiative to bring local, sustainably produced food to campus– made possible through a partnership with Local Food Plus, non-profit organization that brings farmers and consumers together.” Our school is so proud of this, that the statement remains under the news section of our dining website.

This is all wonderful and uplifting…but what about me? I’m tired of eating pizza on campus, and I’m tired of cheesecake and soup representing chance and peril…things that cheesecake and soup were never meant to be. Local is good, vegetarian is great, but how about accommodating a few anaphylactics too?

-Heather