Monday, January 30, 2012

College with Food Allergies...Maybe?

My son will turn 17 in a few weeks. That means we're entering the "College Chute." Where we live, 90+% of the kids go to college and the school is very directive and disciplined about getting them there, so junior-year college tours are strongly encouraged.

We did our first tour this weekend at Carthage College, a very nice little liberal arts school about an hour south of Milwaukee. The draw of Carthage is its proximity to Lake Michigan, which is...well, if you trip going to class, expect to have to change your wet clothes. It's only about 2500 students so we didn't know what to expect: would its small size make it less or more accommodating of students with special needs?

The good news is that we did find some awareness on campus. Our tour guide indicated she had a friend with gluten allergy and that the head of food services meets with kids with special dietary needs and then provides special food for them throughout the year. The challenge is that it isn't going to be carefree. My son will have to plan his meals in advance and notify the cafeteria. However, if they can truly prepare safe meals with just a little notice, that's a huge win and relief for us.

The school also has an alternate eating facility, made up of several food modules including a Baja Fresh. I am not familiar with this chain, but it does seem similar to a Chipotle, so we're hoping this might be an option for him as well.

Finally, the school is only 40 minutes from where we live, so it would be possible to drive groceries or frozen foods up. There are no cooking facilities (the dorms are VERY old and small), but kids are allowed to have cooking appliances in their rooms if they do not have a coil. That means microwaves, hot pots and even electric frying pans are o.k. As my husband and I have discovered in countless hotel rooms over the years, you can do a LOT with a crock pot and an electric fry pan. (Heck, we even used an iron once in a pinch.)

So, all in all, not much to bitch about this weekend. Well...a few things (after all, it is the point of the blog). The hospital is farther than I'd like, there's no on-site nurse most of the time and their response to emergencies is "call 911"...but I think that's probably going to be par for the course wherever we look.

I looked in vain through the folder for the pamphlet entitled "Parent Dorm Options", but there was only stuff for him in there. The more I think about it, the smarter I think our high school is to push these early visits. He's fine with the concept of leaving home, but God knows I need some time to process it all!