The Crossroads is introducing a new restaurant called the Black Olive that will open Feb. 16 tailored to those who are allergic to gluten, lactose and tree nuts.
Todd Huchendorf, director of food services, said those working in food prep for The Crossroads want to emphasize the amount of effort and careful preparation that is going into this restaurant. They are sectioning off a corner of the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination and contact with the allergen-free foods.
There are a reported 3 million Americans living with Celiac disease. One in 22 people have an immediate family member that is diagnosed with Celiac disease, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Huchendorf said it is speculated that between 10 and 15 percent of college students at BYU-Idaho suffer from Celiac, lactose intolerance and nut allergies.
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He said there is an unserved population on campus of students who suffer from these allergies. When faced with the question of what to have for lunch, those students have limited options. The new restaurant will provide a different menu each day to provide more options for those students.
Huchendorf said he works with a lady who can be affected for six months by cross-contamination.
He said another problem food services faces is pricing. Wal-Mart sells gluten-free tortillas for $4.88 for eight tortillas, whereas flour tortillas are sold for $2 for 10 tortillas.
“I always have to pay extra for what I can eat,” said Elizabeth Weedman, a freshman studying biology.
Huchendorf said he plans to try to make the food prices reasonable and fair to the students who would benefit from it.
Huchendorf said it would be nice if they could use locally grown produce, but there is not much of a selection in Idaho. He said the definition of locally grown is different to everyone. Some would say that foods from Oregon would be local, but that is not what food services want.
The BYU-I applied plant sciences department partners with food services and sells tomatoes that are grown on campus.
“We love their tomatoes,” Huchendorf said.
He said he hopes to expand that partnership to foods such as peppers, lettuces and an herb garden.
“What do you like?” Huchendorf said. “What do you really love? What do you wish you could see in Rexburg? It’s really the students’ program. What would you like to see?”