As students returned to campus for the 2023-2024 school year, they were greeted with a Wood Dining Commons (WDC) makeover that was hard to miss. Over the summer, the dining hall had been renovated to include a new Simple Servings station, dedicated to providing gluten-free and allergen-free food.
Simple Servings is “an innovation developed at a corporate level by Sodexo and provides allergen and gluten-safe dining experiences for students at colleges and universities across the country,” according to John Pasquarello, General Manager of the WDC. He added that the new station would not have been possible without support from across the campus community, including President Harring, Dean Williams and Executive Director Jane Schubert, as well as Muhlenberg College Capital Project Manager Rick Waligora, all of whom recognized the need for Simple Servings.
Due to the rising number of students with specialized dietary needs and restrictions, the WDC had already taken several steps to create more inclusive dining options. These included the labeling of gluten-friendly foods, vegetarian and vegan options at every station, gluten friendly and vegan dessert options and a dedicated gluten-free pantry area. During the 2022-2023 school year, Magellan’s and Chef’s Table also began to offer more inclusive menus, with Chef’s Table offering an entirely vegetarian or vegan menu on Mondays and Magellans becoming entirely gluten-friendly at lunch and dinner.
Now, Simple Servings supplements these offerings by providing a menu that is gluten-free and free of eight of the top nine allergens– milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. Simple Servings has taken the place of the WildfireGrill, which in turn has relocated to the previous location of Magellan’s. Simple Servings serves rotating entrees and sides at lunch and dinner times, as well as a salad bar. To ensure that the variety of the WDC is not lost with the new addition, Chef’s Table now serves breakfast every day while omelets are prepared at Mangia Mangia Pizza on weekends. Simple Servings utilizes a separate kitchen from the other WDC stations to ensure that all meals served are free of the cross contamination that is nearly unavoidable in a shared kitchen.
Additionally, Pasquarello shared other precautions that are being taken to ensure that food served at Simple Servings is safe for students with dietary restrictions: “Behind the scenes is where the program really shines. All staff members receive AllerTrain’s accredited food allergy training from a Sodexo Certified Master Trainer.”
“Safety measures are taken from the loading dock to the serving station. Separate equipment, storage areas, utensils and preparation areas all minimize the risk of cross-contact.”John Pasquarello
For students with severe food restrictions, these additional protocols make a marked difference. As an example, foods that used to be only gluten-friendly (free of gluten containing ingredients) can now be labeled as truly gluten-free because they are free of cross contamination.
However, Simple Servings is not only for students with food allergies. “The ‘simple’ part comes from the minimally processed foods that are free from the most common allergens and gluten-containing ingredients. The program is favored not only by students with allergies or sensitivities, but also by those who are looking for simpler, cleaner meal options,” shared Pasquarello.
As for student reception of Simple Servings, the reviews have varied across the campus community:
A student who preferred to remain anonymous shared that “while the Simple Servings station has accomplished its advertised purposes… there are still a few shortcomings in my opinion. Firstly, the station lacks variety. While managing that many restrictions is difficult, the meal is always meat and side vegetables.”
In contrast, Faith Miller ‘26 stated, “I assumed they were just gonna serve the same thing every day because when I think of allergen-free food, I think of plain white rice, but honestly I’ve been really impressed with the variation. The three times that I’ve gotten [Simple Servings], the protein has been really well done, which I feel like is the hardest thing to get right. So yeah, I’ve enjoyed eating at Simple Servings so far and I’m hoping that they continue having interesting food choices.”
“It’s honestly refreshing to be able to get a meal without really worrying if I’m allergic to it.”Julia Stein ‘26
Simple Servings is providing a clean, safe option for students on campus, something that is becoming ever more important as students’ needs evolve.