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Alternative Diets can drain students’ wallets

By Carlie Williams

Living with one or more dietary restrictions can cause unwanted stress and strain on life in general. But how does it impact the lives of college students?

Nikki Devens, a Loyola University Chicago senior, has been living an alternative lifestyle for 6 1/2 years. It all started back in high school when she saw a picture of a mutilated chicken. She decided that enough was enough. For Devens, the switch to vegetarianism was overnight. But over the years, she’s had to transition between several different dietary restrictions.

Her sophomore year of college, Devens was forced to take a semester off due to health complications. After several tests, she was diagnosed with Celiac disease. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Celiac is “a serious genetic autoimmune disorder where the indigestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.”

At the same time of her Celiac diagnosis, Devens found that she also had an allergy to both dairy and nuts. Because of the number of restrictions on her diet, this past summer she has begun consuming meat once again.

Devens said, “It was definitely weird. […] I felt like I was super behind, like everyone in the world already knew how to cook an egg and I had no idea how to cook any of those things.”

As a freshman at Loyola, Devens found that being a vegetarian was incredibly difficult. “Something that Loyola’s not really conscious of is that, if you cook something with animal fat, for someone who really hasn’t eaten meat is a couple years, that’s really going to affect them.”

Often times, she was forced to spend money off campus which can put a strain on a college student’s already tight pocketbook. Especially when students are already paying money for meal plans that they ultimately don’t use.

When diagnosed with the gluten, diary, and nut allergy, things became even more difficult for Devens. Because Loyola offers very few options for students and staff with such restrictive diets, she was able to petition to be released from the meal plan.

Although she consumes meats once again, Devens hopes that the University and others take the time to educate their food staff at the very least. It is unfair to place the added stress of finding food to eat on the shoulders of a student who should merely be worrying about adjusting to college.

Devens shared that purchasing most food off campus added stress to her college life, especially because she only really had access to Whole Foods Market.

She empathizes with individuals who do not come from an abundance of money like herself saying, “It’s difficult being a vegan and it would be, I imagine, discouraging to come to a campus that is supposed to provide for you but doesn’t.” With Whole Foods one of the only options around campus, she understands why there isn’t a large presence of vegans on campus; students just can’t afford it.

To look into just how much being a vegan costs, below is a comparison of a weeks worth of groceries at Whole Foods.final-project-p_18775584_ed3a6b910b3f8f6effd0647c0fde560bbaeda5a8
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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.