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New to the Menu

With more vegan and allergen-free options, Montclair State Dining encourages students to eat their vegetables

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Portia Calo and Sebastian Solano are served lunch free of food allergens at Montclair State Dining’s new G8 station
Portia Calo and Sebastian Solano are served lunch free of food allergens at Montclair State Dining’s new G8 station.

Montclair State Dining has created new menus with allergen-free and vegan-friendly foods now the specialty of the house.

It’s all part of an ambitious plan to introduce foods free of gluten and allergenic ingredients to meet the needs of students with food allergies and intolerances. At the same time, dining halls are serving plant-based recipes that students are learning to love.

“They have really stepped their game up and honestly take the time and effort to listen to what our needs and recommendations are,” says Portia Calo, a health-conscious senior who lives on campus.

Green living is important to Calo. Through an internship, she has helped bring community gardens to the city of Newark and works with the University’s PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies. Now, the Nutrition and Food Science major is able to eat what she preaches at Montclair State Dining. “Being a vegan, I believe it was an amazing addition they delivered to the campus,” she says.

The new menu is among the programs Montclair State has in place to help students make smart choices, says Lindsey Anderson, marketing manager for campus food services. A teaching kitchen, recipes and a nutrition tracing app promote wellness and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, including boosting academic performance.

At Sam’s Place, the largest residential dining hall that sees up to 4,000 students pass through on any given day, the University opened food stations that feature locally grown produce and greens, innovative vegan entrees, and food free of the eight main food allergens.

The G8 food station provides menu options prepared without peanuts, tree nuts, fish, crustacean shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, wheat or gluten. Students have access to an on-campus dietician to answer their questions. The dining staff is also trained on common food allergies and how to avoid cross-contact with different ingredients. Safety measures include kitchenware colored in purple, the universal color for allergy awareness, to signify allergen safe zones.

Montclair State renovated Sam’s Place over the summer to provide the special station for G8, making the University among New Jersey’s leaders in providing an extensive allergy- and gluten-free menu. “We want to make every type of student comfortable,” says Carlos Mohammed, executive chef of residence dining.

The Innovative Plant Based Station features freshly prepared, cooked to order breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees, including tofu scrambles, vegan French toast, vegan omelets, quinoa black bean burgers and spicy ground tofu enchiladas. ‘It’s become a very popular station,” Mohammed says.

The University has also placed emphasis on environmental responsibility, with students taking the lead on sustainability events and programs, including composting to manage food waste and bringing produce grown at the Montclair Community Farm to the campus food pantry.

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