Story Arts Centre cafeteria offers food options to accommodate allergies and preferences: staff

"We want the students to be happy"

One lacto-vegetarian lunch option on campus is the Greek rotini pasta salad with a coffee.
One lacto-vegetarian lunch option on campus is the Greek rotini pasta salad with a coffee. (Photo credit: Kat Bergeron.) 

Story Arts Centre students can request information on ingredients, or the modification of items at the cafeteria food preparation counter, the cafeteria’s operations manager says.  

All that students at the Centennial College campus need to do, if they have concerns about items from the cafeteria, is ask.

“The most common requests we get are for information, like whether something is halal or vegetarian,” Blanca Campos told the Toronto Observer. “Occasionally, we get others too. I have had students ask me if something has mushrooms in it, if it has dairy in it, or to hold the sauce if it’s a mayo sauce.

“I’ve had people ask if it is a beef gravy, but a plant-based sauce. You know, if they have an egg allergy, or they don’t like something, and they can’t eat that. We want the students to be happy,” she said.

Students have options on and off campus

Dietary restrictions due to allergies, lifestyle, religious, or preferential factors can affect students’ everyday life.

It can be manageable with access to a selection of choices and possibility for modifications. On and around the campus, located at Carlaw and Mortimer avenues, there are a variety of food choices for students with dietary restrictions, including the ability to request modifications.

On campus, the Chef’s Corner Café and The Marketplace serve coffee and soft drinks, already prepared meals like salads and sandwiches, as well as hot meals that can be customized when ordering.

“Here you will find daily specials, grill stations, grab and go areas, and microwaves. You are close to Greek town and can find lots of restaurants near the campus,” Centennial College website stated on the food options available at the Story Arts Centre.

There are several vegetarian options, gluten-free, and peanut-free options. As for vegan options, the majority of hot meals can be customized by excluding a sauce, on request.

According to Campos, it’s all about student convenience, especially when it’s too rainy or cold out to go anywhere else.

This image shows students staying late after class to work on a group assignment.
Several students stay late in the Story Arts Centre cafeteria after class to work on a group project. (Kat Bergeron/Toronto Observer.)

“Always, the company tries to give new promotions, and new items, that they think are gonna be good for the students; more choices, and sometimes events, like the hot-chocolate day we’re gonna have this week. There’s going to be toppings, and stuff to add,” said Campos.

Campos said accommodations will always be available, that they are always happy to listen to what the students want. The goal is to have something for everybody to be able to eat.

For example, in the cafeteria, vegetarian students are able to eat fries with gravy, or even a poutine, as the gravy is not a beef gravy, but a soy-based sauce.

“For the products in our express fridge, they’re grab-and-go, so we try to have different stuff and we’re gonna start soon with the new meals. I would say, we’re also reintroducing different stuff like tacos, quesadillas, stuff like that,” Campos said.

‘Sometimes, it’s easier for everyone to stay on campus’: student

Many students choose to stay on campus for lunch, so it’s often very busy at lunch time. Students can always heat up a lunch they brought, use the vending machines, stay in from the elements outside, and use their full break time to work with friends or get caught up.

“You know, sometimes, with friends, you eat together, if you have an assignment you’re working on, or something? It’s easier for everyone to stay on campus, in the cafeteria,” said Danny Man.

Man is a broadcasting student on campus, who says he looks forward to the convenience of the cafeteria as well as the certainty that there are options for him. Man also noted that he now knows which items have no mushrooms, so he can enjoy his lunch. Although he has no allergy to them, he dislikes them enough to avoid them.

Canadian diets are varied

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), one out of every 10 adults may have a food allergy, with more than half of them experiencing a severe allergic reaction. As Canadian food prices increase, so does the difficulty finding affordable and safe food to eat, especially for students on a limited budget. For college and university-aged people, this is averaged at seven to 11 per cent.

Allergies aren’t the only cause for students to double check ingredients; people have individual dislikes due to personal preferences, moral or health choices, and religious beliefs.

While many Canadians eat an unrestricted diet, including meat and potential allergens like dairy and eggs, 7.1 per cent of Canadians are vegetarian or vegan, about one million people are Muslim, which traditionally dictates a halal diet, and just under two per cent follow a kosher diet.

“One of the most common questions we are asked at the counter is if our food is Halal,” Campos said. “We also have some vegetarians who have asked if they could eat something we make. If we don’t know, we’ll search out the shipping packaging to double check for them.”

Off campus, the roads are lined with shops and restaurants, pubs, and cafès, which are a short walk from campus. Local businesses and chain restaurants often serve items tailored to, or customizable to meet specific dietary requirements. 

Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre is located at 951 Carlaw Ave, in East York.

About this article

Posted: Feb 13 2024 2:00 pm
Filed under: Arts & Life Centennial Life Food News