Nutrition and Dietary Concerns

OSCA works hard to create a friendly and safe dining atmosphere for co-opers with special dietary needs. OSCAns count among their ranks vegans who eat and do not eat honey, vegetarians, and people who can't consume certain nuts, fruits, vegetables, legumes, gluten, wheat, egg, soy, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Co-opers write their names on worksheets posted in the kitchen to indicate their dietary preferences (vegan with/without honey, vegetarian) as well as the foods they are unable to eat due to allergies, intolerance, or other medical conditions. Cooks are required to consult these worksheets and provide adequate food for everyone at meals. Cooks are also supposed to list all the ingredients in the dishes they prepare, and note whether they are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. However, different co-ops do better at following these guidelines than others. For example, Fairchild has a very strong history of accommodating gluten-free co-opers and co-opers with nut allergies. Larger co-ops can have more difficulty accommodating every member.

While many co-opers migrate to certain co-ops based on the food policies these co-ops have historically followed, food policy is decided anew by each co-op, each semester. Fairchild and Harkness have historically served vegan and vegetarian food only. Keep, Pyle, Tank, and Old Barrows have served meat a couple times a month in the past. For co-opers with medical conditions that require them to eat a very individualized and precise diet, Brown Bag Co-op can be a good choice. Brown Bag is a buying co-op where members can purchase their food and cook in their own kitchens. If you would like advice on which co-op might best be able to meet your dietary concerns, email Attn: Nutrition Coordinator to let us know!

At the beginning of the semester, cooks and food buyers receive a nutrition and cross-contamination training from the all-OSCA Food Safety Coordinator and Nutrition Coordinator. If you have useful guidelines for avoiding cross-contamination, information about allergies, or anything else you would like to be added to this training, email Attn: Nutrition Coordinator.

If your nutritional needs are not being accommodated, or just to ensure that they will be, you may want to talk to your co-op cooks, food buyers, nutrition adviser, and/or the all-OSCA Nutrition Coordinator. For example, you might urge your food buyers to buy gluten-free pasta, cereal, gluten-free flours for baking, wheat-free soy sauce, etc. If a cook consistently fails to provide adequate meals for you, you can give them a missed job. However, dialogue is really the most effective tool. If you feel uncomfortable talking to any of these people, your co-op nutrition adviser or the all-OSCA Nutrition Coordinator will do it for you. That's their job. Students with special dietary needs are paying just as much money to the co-op as everyone else, and they deserve to eat! Some co-ops choose not to elect a nutrition adviser, or are unable to. Students in these co-ops can feel free to contact the all-OSCA Nutrition Coordinator directly.

Nutrition advisers are elected each semester by individual co-ops. The job of the nutrition adviser is to make sure that everyone is getting adequate and appropriate nutrition. Nutrition advisers act as liaisons between cooks, food buyers, and co-opers, handling nutrition-related complaints and talking to whomever necessary in order to resolve problems. Co-opers are paying for nutritious meals - nutrition advisers make sure they're getting their money's worth. Nutrition advisers also advocate for students with allergies, intolerances, and other diet-related conditions, creating a culture in their co-op where cooks and food buyers know that failure to accommodate people's dietary needs is not okay. With their leftover time, they help OSCAns learn about nutrition by researching topics that their co-op is interested in, planning workshops and events, or doing anything else their co-op requests. In fall of 2008, nutrition advisers researched sweeteners, soy, and protein, and worked on a Local Foods Cookbook. In spring of 2008, nutrition advisers organized a workshop on breadmaking and researched topics such as "eating for a healthy immune system". Is there anything else you would like the Nutrition Coordinator or your co-op nutrition adviser to be working on? Do you have a question about nutrition? Send an email to Attn: Nutrition Coordinator, to let us know!

Sometimes it is impossible for a specific co-op to accommodate a co-oper's dietary needs. In this event, there is a special procedure to apply to be switched into a more appropriate co-op, which may allow the co-oper to jump the wait list into that co-op. Co-opers will have to prove their medical need to utilize this method of co-op switching, and people trying to abuse this privilege will not succeed. If you feel that you are a candidate for co-op switching, email the all-OSCA Nutrition Coordinator at attn: Nutrition Coordinator to begin a dialogue.