The restaurants and dining services on campus have been open and accepting to students with dietary restrictions. However, students find more options off campus.
Senior special education major Anna Gail Welch has been gluten- free and dairy-free for a year. Her health issues and personal beliefs are what began her journey into the lifestyle she has today. Welch struggled with acne before changing her diet when a friend suggested that she should remove specific foods.
Within two months, Welch began to see a difference in her skin as well as her health. As far as eating on campus, she has found it difficult at times when searching for a meal that fits her dietary needs. Welch accommodates herself by preparing her own meals.
“While I do love going out to restaurants, some substitutions for items give an upcharge and do not taste as appetizing,” Welch said.
Welch does not live on campus because of her need to prepare her own meals in a full, operating kitchen. However, the Fresh on campus allows for the accommodation of students with various dietary restrictions.
As for ordering with a dietary restriction, she has some advice.
“Don’t be afraid to tell your server about what you need with your meal,” Welch said. “You are the customer, after all.”
Similar to Welch, senior communications major Hayley Smith has been gluten-free for two years after discovering a food sensitivity during her sophomore year. She finds that the best place in Hattiesburg for a quick meal is T-Bones because of the gluten-free bread.
Smith said T-Bones is generally a good choice for those without dietary restrictions looking to eat healthier. As for eating on-campus, Smith finds it difficult to eat without a meal plan.
“The food outside of the Fresh is expensive,” Smith said. “This is why I choose to eat off-campus to increase my options. If I had a meal plan, I would try the Fresh.”
Junior social work major Shelby Harris became vegetarian due to her own ethical reasons. The most difficult thing that she has experienced when eating out is being limited to a salad or sides due to the lack of accommodations in certain restaurants.
“I mostly make my own food,” Harris said. “However, in Hattiesburg, the best restaurants for dietary restrictions are Papito’s, Qdoba and Jutamas.”
Harris agreed that while initially difficult, finding food that fits her dietary needs is not as bad as one might think, especially in the Hattiesburg area. Harris said the veggie burgers at Ed’s Burger Joint or Keg and Barrel are her favorite. Along with restaurants off-campus, Harris said Zoca in the Agora is her favorite place on campus to grab a bite.
Many students have found that the access to vegan options in the Fresh have been a positive encounter when struggling to find a meal on campus. Along with many healthy options, the Fresh also provides a gluten-free waffle bar for those with gluten sensitivity.
Students with dietary restrictions can find a few options on campus, but off-campus restaurants provide more options to accommodate their needs.