Special Dietary Needs

A special diet is one that cannot be selected freely from the main choices available. This could be due to an allergy, intolerance or other medical need; or because children are following a religious or cultural diet; or a vegetarian or vegan diet.


Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger reactions including tingling or itching in the mouth, hives, itching or eczema, swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body. Severe reaction can cause Anaphylaxis including constriction and tightening of the airways, a swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe. Additional symptoms include shock with a severe drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness.


Food intolerance, also known as non-IgE mediated food hypersensitivity or non-allergic food hypersensitivity, refers to difficulty in digesting certain foods. It is important to note that food intolerance is different from food allergy. Food allergies trigger the immune system, while food intolerance does not.

Vegan / Vegetarian (Dietary Preference)

People's dietary choices are often affected by a variety of factors, including ethical and religious beliefs. Calvin Dining Service will work to accommodate dietary preferences utilizing current resources, but may not be able to accommodate all requests.

The Zone

The Zone is an allergen sensitive station located in Knollcrest Dining Hall, that focuses on providing nutritious and quality food for those who have one or more allergies to the top 8 allergens. The Zone provides a safe space to help control cross contact while enabling students to have a varied and delicious menu of options for their meal. Our staff is educated in safe allergen protocols, and our menu features scratch-based cooking, including sauces and condiments. We choose dishes based on the needs and wants of our students. All dishes are gluten and dairy free, and staples at The Zone include at daily rotation of proteins and vegetables like beef kabobs, grilled chicken, baked beans, polenta, and rice pilaf.

Eight food items account for almost 90 percent of food allergic reactions: milk, eggs, nuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

We work hard to identify all dishes that are prepared with these select items and in addition we advise diners with allergies to do following:

  • Pay attention to entrée name. Dishes made with common allergens often have that allergen mentioned in the entrée name.
  • Establish a relationship with the chef. Simple conversations with the chef in your daily visit to the dining halls can make your dining experience a lot easier. The chef can go over ingredients used in recipes and how the meal was prepared.
  • Read labels! We include allergy icons made by Creative Dining Services for each allergen) on all of our menus. Our chefs will be happy to tour the kitchen with you so you may view labels of the foods you will be eating.
  • When in doubt...  Ask! Our staff would love to help and if we don't know the answer, we will do our best to find it.  But if you are ever unsure about an entrée, we recommend you avoid consuming it.

Dining Halls

  • All areas that contain nut products will have signs clearly displayed.
  • Food on the hot lines will be nut-sensitive unless otherwise indicated by clearly displayed signs and servers on the lines will be informed ahead of time if a food product will contain any nut products and will make this information clear. Nut sensitive areas will be washed separately from areas that may contain nut products.
  • If there is ever any question or concern about any of the food products being served, students are highly encouraged to talk to a supervisor at the dining location.
Note: All retail locations on campus are considered areas that contain nuts. Students with nut allergies should use caution in these locations.

If it is a severe reaction:

  • Have the dining service manager or a staff member Call x3-3333 or 526-3333 to page campus safety immediately.
  • Have the manager or staff member explain the problems.
  • Tell them where you are located, i.e. building/specific location.
  • Administer an Epi-Pen or take medication as prescribed.

If it is not a severe reaction:

  • Take medication as prescribed.
  • If you feel that medical attention would be beneficial, call for non-emergency help at 3-3333 or 526-3333.

In either case:

Please follow up with the dining services manager where you ate the food item that produced the reaction by telling them what happened. This is important so that the specific reason for the inadvertent exposure can be identified and corrective action can be taken as needed to prevent future exposures.

Who to contact if you have a food allergy:

If you have special a special dietary need including food allergies or sensitivities, please let us know by completing this form.

Special Dietary Needs Form


Although we strive to make the information as accurate as possible, deviation(s) from recipe(s), product substitution(s) or changes to portion size can happen during our meal preparation process. Our utmost mission is to serve you in the best ways possible in a healthy and safe dining environment.