Wood Dining Commons begin “serving up” allergen-friendly options

The dining hall has exciting plans via Simple Servings for fall of 2023.

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Photo by Photo Editor Ayden Levine '23

On Friday, Feb. 17, students received an email from Dean of Students Allison Williams introducing an exciting new dining hall addition: Simple Servings. Dedicated to providing allergen-friendly food options, Simple Servings will be offered in the Wood Dining Commons (WDC) beginning in the Fall 2023 semester. With plans to occupy the current WildFire Grille location, Simple Servings will be completely absent from gluten and eight of the nine most common allergens, including 90 percent of all food allergies such as milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame. Simple Servings will impact the current dining hall layout, with the Grille being relocated to the current Magellan’s station. 

“We chose this space [specifically for Simple Servings] as it is segregated from “K2,” our main production kitchen, and the other food areas. This separation allows us to store, prep and cook food for Simple Servings away from foods containing allergens, minimizing the potential for cross contact,” Executive Chef Michael Brack says. “The new station will have all brand new equipment that has never been exposed to any ingredients containing allergens [including] dedicated tools and servicewear.”

“Separating Simple Servings from the other restaurants minimizes the risk of cross contact therefore keeping all our customers safer.”

Michael Brack

To accommodate Simple Serving’s move to the WildFire grill, other locations will undergo changes as well. Brack notes that “There will also be a refresh to the [Magellan’s] service counter to accommodate the Wild Fire service. Chef’s Table will also get a facelift as it will become the primary breakfast location. Nothing will be lost in this shuffle as we will be able to offer the same great menu mix we currently serve.”

Currently, the dining hall has a very detailed labeling system, displaying the allergens contained in food items. The College, which has been consistently renowned for best campus food in Pennsylvania and the tenth best in the nation, is committed to the safety of all students, faculty, staff and guests. Additional precautions taken by the dining hall staff will include ensuring that preparation, food storage and cooking equipment are completely allergen-free through mandatory allergen training for employees. These training sessions will include how to better address the needs of students who experience allergic reactions. 

After closely monitoring the increased need for allergy-friendly options amongst the students, the WDC has taken a variety of measures, including the implementation of the allergen-free menu at Magellan’s. The staff shared that they wish to continue preparing the delicious, high-quality food that the College is known for, while ensuring that the increased needs of today’s customers are being met.

Many Muhlenberg students were excited by the announcement, including Gabi Klausner ‘24 who shared, “I am very excited about Simple Servings, I think it’s going to be a great addition to the dining hall and offer students with allergies a station they can depend upon for options.”

Hannah Siskin ‘24 shares the same sentiments, “As someone who has recently become gluten-free, I am so excited to have more potential options on campus!”

“I do think it is great that people will have a station that they know for a fact is safe for them to eat from,” Nicole Watkinson ‘24 agrees. 

Ayden Levine ‘23 stated that “I really appreciate the allergen station. It feels comforting to know that gluten free foods are safely stored, and that the appliances are safe for me as well.” However, Levine did express some concerns saying, “As a student with Celiac disease, the food I ingest cannot come into contact with gluten at all. This includes cross contamination with utensils and dishes used to make my food. With that being said, the dining hall has done a great job with prohibiting cross contamination, but there have been many occasions where food has been labeled gluten free on the screens, and only after I double checked with a white-coat chef that it was clarified that the food is not gluten free, resulting in the TV menu being changed.”

“I only wonder how many gluten free students before me didn’t think to ask and ate the food thinking it was safe for them.”

Ayden Levine ’23

Amy Swartz ‘26 expressed similar sentiments saying, “as someone with severe food allergies, going into the dining hall is always nerve wracking. Even though all allergens are labeled, nothing can ever be 100 percent accurate in a kitchen. I’m really excited about the new station, because it is completely allergen free and I know that I’ll be able to trust it. I really hope that this new station is as allergen free as Muhlenberg claims it’s going to be, because that’s the only way that students with allergens are really going to feel more at ease in the dining hall.” 

“Year over year we have continuously seen the percentage of our customers who are seriously affected by food allergies grow,” Brack adds. “This trend is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Establishing a restaurant that serves high quality, innovative and delicious foods that are absent of gluten and 8 of the top 9 most common allergens was the best solution for this opportunity.” 

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