Self advocacy is one of the most important skills that students must learn in their daily lives. It has become a major factor in not only my health and well-being, but my ability to access one of the most basic requirements for life—food. No one is going to serve you new opportunities on a golden plate, you must work for what you want. Most people don’t have to take food into consideration when applying to colleges, but I did. Many schools are unable to accommodate, but I had heard that Geneseo was good with allergies, which automatically gave it a higher rank in my mind.
In 5th grade I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, a genetic autoimmune disease that requires me to follow a strict gluten-free diet. At home, management was extremely easy since my parents helped me regulate, and I knew the right grocery stores to shop at, the specific brands I could trust and enjoy, and the restaurants that were reliable in my area. Extensive research was required for every trip or outing in order to make sure I had safe and accessible options.
Coming to Geneseo, I was forced to put my health and safety in the hands of complete strangers while everyone around me ate food that would be harmful to me. The first week was truly impossible. Meal options were slim and typically there was one gluten-free option per meal, if any. With the closing of Letchworth Dining Hall due to understaffing from the pandemic, CAS was busier than ever and everyone was in a scramble. Dinner was usually reliable, but breakfast and lunch left me going on weekly Wegmans trips and stocking up my microfridge and drawers.
I soon realized that in order for more options to become available, I would have to reach out and talk to the nutritionist and the chefs. How would they ever know that more items were in demand and that the current options were too limited unless someone were to speak up ? Geneseo has so many resources available for students as long as they go looking for them. Quickly after I emailed a few staff members, items such as bagels, sandwiches, cereals, and sides that I had requested or suggested began to pop up daily. Each meal now consists of multiple options that I can enjoy with peace of mind. There is still room for improvement and increased availability, but progress takes time. Nothing will happen unless you put yourself out there and fight for what you need or want, not only in college, but throughout life.