Diet-restricted students struggle to find options

LaKierra DeBerry

While there are over 20 dining options on campus, many students experience limitations because of dietary restrictions or diseases.

Olivia Peebles, a senior at WKU, said she has struggled with pancreatitis and acute pancreatitis since February 2018. After her diagnosis, she said her diet had to drastically change. Now her diet primarily consists of low-fat and healthy foods such as rice, chicken and unseasoned potatoes.

Before she was diagnosed, Peebles said there were many things she liked on campus. However, after being hospitalized for pancreatitis and acute pancreatitis three or four times, she was forced to adjust her diet. Since then she said she has noticed a lack of healthy options for her on campus.

While the lack of options is a difficulty, Peebles said her diagnosis was a blessing in disguise. She explained she didn’t realize the things she used to eat were unhealthy.

After cutting out gluten and dairy products, Peebles said she couldn’t eat at her typical favorite restaurants on campus. After her diagnosis, Peebles said she primarily eats at Burrito Bowl.

Senior Anthony Husky was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease his freshman year of high school. Since coming to college, he has faced challenges related to his disease, even getting to the point where he was forced to take off last semester.

“A few options have changed since I have attended college,” Husky said. “I try to stay away from greasy foods that upset my stomach, because it won’t digest as well.”

Since returning this semester, he said his symptoms have not been as bad. There are still days where he is unable to make it to class, but he experiences more good days than bad.

For people who have diseases that require healthy and specific diets, Husky said he believes there should be more options on campus. He said there are so many options for dining at WKU with a regular diet. However, he is usually limited to one.

He worried about incoming students who may not have a car and cannot drive off campus for healthier options.

“I think WKU should have more food options in general, because some people try to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle,” Husky said. “There are not many options for people that want to do that. I do believe Western should provide more of a different variety of foods.”

Brandi Breden, a registered dietician at WKU, has worked at the university for five years. She said part of her job is working with a variety of students who experience health issues.

Breden also works with admissions to see if students are coming in with any kind of medical problems and goes to Topper Orientation Program events to let incoming students know about the work she does on campus.

“They [TOP] do this for parents and students who are concerned about their children’s medical issues before coming to college,” Breden said. “Usually I’ll meet with a lot of students the summer before they get here. I’ll introduce them to the chef and have them know about the safe options on campus.”

Breden created guides for vegan and gluten-free students eating on campus. Additionally, she has a guide for students with food allergies.

“Usually I like to meet with a student to go over foods they like, because just because you have a food allergy does not mean you are not picky,” Breden said.

When Breden meets with students, she said she writes down their medical concerns, food allergies and tries to come up with a plan for them to eat on campus. She also refers them to the simple selections in Fresh foods, which she believes is a safe area for students to eat.

While she said there is low staffing in Fresh, she mentioned a “see a manager” sign if diners have questions. Breden said she wished this was advertised more. She said if students have concerns about a meal plan, they will often forward it to her so she may help them.

Breden said there are limitations for students with Chron’s disease. She said she recommends students stick with deli food or get potatoes from Fresh. Breden also said she eats at Fresh every day and tries to be creative when she is there for students.

On campus, Breden said she struggles with “getting the word out” about dieticians and letting students know she is there to help them and can even introduce them to chefs on campus. Breden said she encourages students with medical restrictions or who want to lose weight to visit the campus nutrition website, which lists meal swipe options.

News reporter Lakierra DeBerry can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @Kierra_DeB.