by Katie Davert
Thirty minutes before every meal, breakfast lunch and dinner, sophomore Samantha Costa must call the cafeteria line to tell the chefs that she’ll be coming in so they can prepare her food.
Costa was diagnosed with a gluten and dairy allergy, meaning she’ll become incredibly ill if she eats either. She was diagnosed her freshman year of high school, making it incredibly difficult to eat out at restaurants and shop for inexpensive food.
She originally applied to nine different schools and only FPU took the time to reassure her she would be safe eating here.
On step day, she met with almost half the chefs so they could assure her she would never have to worry. “They quickly became family, and made it so it wasn’t scary,” said Costa.
It was then they began to work out how her meals would be planned. Costa worked with the chefs to help them gain a better understanding of what cooking for someone with allergies is like. From this point all the chefs were trained specifically on allergens.
Her freshman year there wasn’t much of a program for students with allergies so it was a little bit of a struggle for her trying to adapt. She met with the sous chef, Darlene and from here began to plan each meal out so it could be prepared separately to avoid cross contamination. She was able to work with the chefs and overcome any challenge they faced.
“It wasn’t easy, but the chefs are very passionate about making sure we can all eat,” said Costa.
As her freshman year ended and sophomore year began, Costa realized there were other students with allergies on campus. Starting her sophomore year, she became the allergen liaison for FPU, meaning she is the middle man between the students with allergies and the chefs. Once a week she meets with all of the allergen students to work with them in deciding what they’ll want for upcoming meals and each meal meets each student’s specific dietary needs. Costa also connects with incoming students to make sure they know what the program is and get the most out of their meal plan. Her final task is to ensure the students can get what they want.
Overall, Costa helps roughly 100 students with smaller things, such as filling the allergen free fridge and making sure there are options for each student. Directly through meal planning, meetings and emails she works with 10 different students so each one will never feel like he or she can’t eat in the cafeteria.
“It makes the students feel more comfortable to have me talk to the chefs at first because walking into the kitchen and asking for things can be intimidating, but soon the students learn that our chefs quickly become family and there is nothing intimidating about them at all,” said Costa.
Costa came to FPU scared of what she’d be able to eat and today she makes sure that no one else feels the same way. “No student should feel that they can’t eat on campus without getting sick. We are here to help,” said Costa.