I come from the land of avo­cados, gluten-free reli­giosity, and juice cleanses: the state of Cal­i­fornia. During my first year at Hillsdale, I became accus­tomed to the options offered in the Knorr Family Dining Hall. When I returned to the land flowing with pH water and coconut oil the fol­lowing summer, my body and mind became shocked by the over­whelming number of dietary-restriction-friendly meals I had for­gotten since coming to college.

After a summer cleanse, con­ducting some research on my blood-type, and dis­cov­ering the foods that are detri­mental to my system, I started a fresh lifestyle of healthy eating and my body and mind felt stronger and clearer than ever before.

Once I returned to school and the food offered in the campus dining hall, I found myself limited to only a few items that met my gluten-free and dairy-free restric­tions. I began making small com­pro­mises to find food to sustain my system throughout the day, but fell into the pattern of making this a regular habit.

My mind became foggy again. Inter­nally, I felt weak. And after having gained such a pos­itive physical expe­rience from last summer, I began to have lower self-esteem.

Within the first few weeks of school I spoke to a freshman with a gluten-free and veg­e­tarian diet, who is sim­i­larly frus­trated with Hillsdale’s lack of options. She expressed how abused her body felt after not having the options to follow her strict dietary needs. Her mind can’t work to its optimal level because she must eat the food in the dining hall, she said.

With that said, Bon Appetit has made efforts to try to make available more options that suit dietary restric­tions. The food service’s general manager, David Apthorpe, said, “We have been working on mir­roring our ‘Com­forts’ line to provide a similar meal that is free of the top eight allergens — dairy, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.”

But, despite their desire to “keep up with trends” and serve “well-bal­anced meals,” it seems that there’s more they can do.

Bon Appetit’s main dining hall is slowly making these changes, but other loca­tions on campus like AJ’s Cafe, Jitters, or even the new coffee shop Penny’s, do not provide the proper atten­tiveness nor ‘healthy’ alter­na­tives to those who cannot consume dairy — baristas typ­i­cally resort to soy (which is heavy with hor­mones) because their “provider does not offer almond milk,” according to A.J.’s super­visor Lisa York.

Eco­nomic restraints make sense, but when stu­dents are paying approx­i­mately $14-plus per meal, they deserve to be pro­vided with food that fits within their pref­er­ences and health restric­tions.

Food affects our bodies, not just in shape and size, but its effi­ciency and stamina as well. Food influ­ences our mental state — its ability to retain infor­mation and stay alert.

It is important for the sake of edu­cation and learning to have the sus­te­nance nec­essary to carry on, espe­cially for those who have restricted diets. Hillsdale must realize that there is an ever-increasing number of such people. No dining hall or food service should neglect its guests with serious dietary needs. Bon Appetit should do more to adapt to their requests. To not provide stu­dents with more options for the sake of their providers’ con­ve­nience is short-sighted and a sign of mis­un­der­standing.

As our food today becomes more genet­i­cally-mod­ified and further from its natural state, it is the school’s respon­si­bility to provide ample options to stu­dents who have dietary restric­tions, so that stu­dents with these restric­tions do not feel mar­gin­alized.  

Although some options are available now, the campus dining hall should make pur­poseful efforts to provide diverse and ver­satile options for meals that allow those with dietary restric­tions, whether allergy-related or other, to feel con­fident about the food they are feeding both their body and mind.

Isabella Redjai is a George Wash­ington Fellow and a sophomore studying Pol­itics and Jour­nalism.