The Nest Creates Safety and Inclusion at Meal Time

By Gary Fanelli, Staff Writer

Southern Oregon University’s Dining Facility will be opening The Nest, an allergen focused pantry, this Friday the 26th.The Nest, which will be located to the left of the cash registers in The Hawk, will provide a safe dining experience for those with documented allergen and/or dietary restrictions. The space of The Nest provides allergen friendly alternatives to products like gluten, nuts, dairy, and soy and the IMG_3639equipment available will be specific to prevent cross contact.

This pantry has strict rules implemented by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) program for individuals to prevent cross contamination. Some of these rules include glove wearing at all times and separate storage of dishware and utensils, dairy free products, gluten free products, nut free products, and soy free products. The Nest will also provide a refrigerator, freezer, microwave, Panini press, toaster, and waffle maker for students with specific allergens to use for their own food preparation.

This FARE program also provides tips for students with allergens/dietary restrictions who are already on campus and tips for a prospective parent or student planning on attending a university.

Residential Food Service Director, Mary Sossaman, said she wanted to accommodate all students including those with allergies and dietary restrictions. Sossaman has created separate allergen focused stations at four other universities prior to her arrival at SOU six months ago. Not only does she have experience professionally, but personally as well. Sossaman, who is anaphylactic to shellfish, recognizes the need to have safe alternatives for others.

“It makes it really difficult for students to dine when they have certain intolerances and I’ve created The Nest to make it much easier for them”, said Sossaman. “It’s always one of those things that I look at when I’m at dining facilities. People with allergens may not make up a large population but they still need to be included.”

For students to access The Nest, they must take a couple steps. First, they must contact Disability Resources and complete an Accommodation Request Form with SOU, in order to evaluate how the university can best meet their needs. Next, students must meet with Mary Sossaman and SOU Dining’s Licensed & Registered Dietitian to discuss diet history of intolerable foods, allergy-alternative products available at The Nest, and to meet with SOU Dining staff that they may be working with.

Currently, there are only ten students who have signed up to use The Nest, but Sossaman says that by the fall term there is projected to be 75-100 students utilizing this facility.

Sossaman wants to remind students that just because they have an allergen or dietary restriction, it shouldn’t prevent them from eating and socializing with their friends. “Some students with dietary restrictions may feel ostracized, making them nervous to come in and eat or makes them not even want to go to college. The Nest is here to accommodate these student’s constraints that can create fear.”

For more information about The Nest, contact Mary Sossaman via email (msossaman@aviands.com) or phone (541-552-6477).

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