Allergies & Special Diets
Penn State Campus Dining is happy to accommodate students with special dietary needs (food allergies, intolerances, conditions necessitating specialized diets, etc.). We offer multiple resources to ensure guests with food allergies and intolerances dine safely.
Special Dietary Needs & Accommodation Requests
Penn State Campus Dining recognizes that individuals with Celiac Disease or gluten-related sensitivities must avoid gluten products when dining. For that reason, a number of resources are available to help guests safely follow a gluten-free diet while dining on campus. Students will find it helpful to become familiar with our point of service Menu Item Cards:
- Menu items containing wheat and/or gluten are labeled in the dining location. Look for the Wheat/Gluten icon on the Menu Item Card.
- Menu items that are not made with gluten-containing ingredients are labeled in the dining commons location. Look for the GF (Gluten Friendly) icon on the Menu Item Card
Use the online menu to see in advance what items are gluten friendly. If a menu item is gluten friendly, the GF icon will appear next to the item’s name. Filtering options are available to easily note which items do not contain any wheat/gluten-containing products.
Menu items that are not labeled with a GF icon OR a Wheat/Gluten icon do not contain wheat/gluten innately, but are prepared in such a way that increases risk for cross contact with gluten (example, shared fryer use).
In addition to the naturally gluten-friendly menu options, dining areas offer supplemental gluten-free items. These items are intended to complement the meals served, vary by dining location, and may include:
- GF Bagels
- GF Rolls (can be subbed for traditional hamburger rolls)
- GF Sliced Bread
- GF Pasta with Tomato Sauce
- Individual GF Pizza
- GF Breakfast Cereals in Individual Cups
- GF Pretzels
- GF Muffins (Udi's®)
- GF Cookies (Udi's®)
- GF Mac N' Cheese (Amy's®)
This list is not exhaustive and may be subject to change based on product availability; please ask dining hall staff what is currently available. Due to our current COVID protocols, please call the dining hall in advance to request any GF items from this list.
Kosher & Halal
PURE: East Food District offers kosher-certified meals at the Pure food station in the all-you-care-to eat area on the first floor. The kitchen is under the supervision of a Star-K Mashgiach. Foods are also free of common food allergens including diary, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (excluding coconut), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat/gluten, and sesame.
Pre-packaged Kosher Food: Kosher food items, prepared within the PURE kitchen, can be purchased in the Market East convenience store of Findlay Commons. Meals typically consist of salads and microwavable entrees.
On-Campus Kosher Microwaves: Students living in University housing are provided a microwave/refrigerator/freezer unit. A student who wants to adhere to kosher dietary laws while living on campus at University Park may submit a request to replace the items with a kosher microwave and/or refrigerator. The unit must meet the specifications listed on the form and is to be provided by the student. Additional questions should be directed to the Assignment Office.
Halal-certified grilled chicken thigh is served throughout Penn State dining facilities across the commonwealth. Depending upon the campus, this may be an option at lunch and dinner every day. To find out if a dish is made with halal-certified chicken thigh, look for the HF or Halal-Friendly icon on the menu item card when you come in to dine. The same HF marker will appear on the online menu.
Dishes containing pork or port by-products (lard, gelatin, etc) are marked with a P icon indicating that the dish contains pork. This symbol will appear on the online menu as well as on the menu item card at the point of service. We offer many meatless, pescatarian and vegan options as well.
Students with special dietary preferences such as vegetarians and vegans are accommodated in our residential dining facilities across the commonwealth in the following ways:
- Vegetarian and/or vegan items are served at each meal.
- Menu items are clearly labeled as being meatless or vegan.
- Our online menu identifies items as being meatless or vegan, and can be filtered to show only these items to the user. Our menu also features ingredient listings for our offerings.
- Supplemental vegan options like dairy alternative products and protein options are available, but vary by location.
The following criteria are used in labeling meatless and vegan menu items:
- Meatless item does not contain meat or meat by-products, but may contain honey, eggs, milk, cheese, or other dairy products.
- Vegan item does not contain meat or meat by-products, honey, eggs or dairy products, but may contain cane sugar.
Additional Vegan Options
At many of our locations, we offer JUST Egg brand’s vegan scramble as well as vegan sausage daily for breakfast upon request. For lunch and dinner, we offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian entrees. The following supplemental vegan items may be available to students:
- Vegan breakfast sausage
- Vegan sunrise pancakes (weekend brunches)
- JUST Egg vegan scramble
- Veggie burger (lunch and dinner)
- Dairy-free alternatives
Please ask the foodservice management staff at your campus about these items.
Dairy Free Alternatives
Each dining hall carries select dairy-free alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, dairy-free cheeses, yogurts and sour cream. If you would like any of these items to accompany your meal, please request them when you arrive at the dining hall. Products will vary by campus and dining location, please ask at the dining hall, or email [email protected] with questions.
Tray Carrying Assistance
Accommodations are available for anyone requiring assistance with their cafeteria tray in the dining commons.
If you would like assistance with carrying a tray or multiple dishes, please let the customer service representative (cashier) at the entrance of the dining commons know. They will arrange for a bus person or service attendant to help transport your food and beverage to your table. Or you may call the dining commons (20 minutes prior to arrival please) and ask for a pre-plated meal. When you arrive at the dining commons, please tell the cashier that you pre-ordered a meal. They will radio the kitchen and have someone bring out your tray of food and beverage.
If you would prefer another type of accommodation, please call the dining commons manager to discuss alternate or additional assistance.
What we're doing to help
Food Allergen Management at Penn State
The Registered Dietitians, of Culinary Support Services at Penn State, are Certified Master Trainers (CMT) in AllerTrain by MenuTrinfo. As such, the dietitians train all Campus Dining staff and select students to become certified in AllerTrain.
Additionally, food allergen management refresher trainings are given annually to all Campus Dining staff by the Certified Master Trainers.
To ensure allergens of food served are known and communicated to guests, Penn State uses the following practices:
- Centralized ordering and warehousing
- Database cataloging food items ordered and associated allergens
- Refusal of substitutes from vendors unless explicitly approved by the Registered Dietitian’s Office
To increase safety and transparency of food items, Penn State also employs point of service labeling, online menus with allergen designations, knowledgeable management staff, strict adherence to approved recipes, and accessible Registered Dietitians.
Menu Item Cards and Online Menu
Menu Item Cards display allergen information for menu items and are prominently displayed in dining commons across campus. Ten allergens including dairy, egg, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, coconut, soy, wheat/gluten and sesame are represented by individual icons on Menu Item Cards if present within a menu item.
Campus Dining recognizes that students and guests may be allergic to foods outside of these common allergens. Customers with allergies or intolerances to any food are encouraged to contact [email protected] for additional support and resources.
Although Penn State chefs and staff adhere to standardized recipes, last minute changes to ingredients may occur. In these instances, a temporary green menu item card is placed to alert guests that the recipe has not been properly reviewed by a Registered Dietitian for allergen and special dietary concerns. Customers with food allergies or special dietary restrictions are urged to use caution with consumption of these menu items and seek assistance from a staff member for specific ingredient information.
Sample Menu Item Card
Menu Item Icons
Avoiding Cross Contact
Campus Dining staff receives annual food allergy training and takes every precaution to prevent cross-contact during service, including using separate serving utensils for each food item and keeping service areas clean. However, cross-contact is still a possibility in shared preparation spaces and self-service dining areas.
To minimize exposure to allergens, guests are encouraged to:
- Contact [email protected] to learn more about dining accommodations
- Notify a manager of allergies and intolerances
- Ask staff to change gloves and utensils before preparing their order
- Request a portion of food from a backup pan (including salad bar, deli station, ice cream, and cereal containers)
- Call ahead to have an order specially prepared with attention to specific food allergens.
- Carry a prescribed epinephrine auto-injector at all times