Navigating the College Search With Food Allergies

A guest post by Teen Advisory Group member Anesha Santhanam.

What’s up, y’all?  I’m Anesha Santhanam, and I’m back with tips for rising juniors and incoming seniors who are navigating the college search with food allergies.

Over the past summer, as I looked into putting together a best-fit college list, I made sure to include food allergy-friendly accommodations as criteria. So far, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a few college campuses and would like to share some tips that worked for me.

As you begin narrowing down your college list, here are some suggestions:

  • Create a spreadsheet with a list of your possible colleges. Explore the college websites and make note of the different dining options, types of cuisines offered, and any special instructions on who to contact about your allergies. If they are listed in FARE Food Allergy College Search, you can find this information there.
  • Plan your campus visits and tours so you can grab a meal at one of the dining facilities on campus. This will give you an idea of what is being offered at the university. Remember, some of the dining facilities may be closed or have limited hours when school is not in session.
  • Map out the area surrounding the college and make note of familiar eateries, their hours of operation, and accessibility.

Narrowing down your college list based on your needs and restrictions definitely takes some time, but once you’ve got that covered, it’s time to visit! Here are some questions you should ask when visiting a college or university:

  • Are local restaurants and cafes outside the school within walking distance?
  • Is there a variety of food on campus, and are there separate kitchens or precautions taken for food-allergic students?
  • What are the meal plans offered at the college? Do they have tokens and credits that you can use on- and off-campus for meals?
  • How far is the closest medical facility from the freshman dorms, and are there hospitals located near the campus? What is the medical protocol for allergic reactions on campus?
  • Is there a way to let the kitchen know about your food allergies ahead of time, and when should you do so once you are accepted as a student? Are special dorm arrangements needed, and is there a specific contact for any rooming inquiries?

Along with these questions, don’t forget to ask about other aspects of your future college experience. Make sure that you get the whole package, safety included!

FARE has some great resources to help with the college search process. Check out their College Food Allergy Program and Food Allergy College Search. I hope these tips will help you find your perfect fit, and I’ll be back with another article next year about transitioning to college! Peace out.


Anesha Santhanam, 17 years old, is a member of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group from New Jersey and is the founder of the #GotYourBack movement to empower teens with food allergies. She is allergic to all nuts, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, shellfish and penicillin.