Senior Sous Chef Chris McMahon stands by The Base at Kimball Hall, which offers Holy Cross students meals free of the top 10 allergens. (Photo by Michael Ivins/Holy Cross)
Rosend Pena ’25 paced around Kimball Hall waiting for the 10 minutes to melt away until The Base opened at 11 a.m.
The new food station provides entrees free from the Top 10 allergens – wheat, dairy, eggs, sesame, soy, fish, shellfish, and coconut, peanuts and tree nuts. While Kimball always provided food options for any student with food restrictions, The Base has made it more efficient.
However, Pena and the students who soon followed him in line, none of whom have food allergies, gravitated to the newest area because of the simpler and healthier options.
“It’s the diversity of food they have. I’m a bit of a health geek and this place has a lot of protein options,” said Pena, who noted he eats at The Base at least once a day.
Pena isn’t alone. Rich Perna, the College’s director of dining and hospitality services, said the new station’s popularity has rivaled other areas of Kimball.
“This has been far better received than we imagined,” Perna said. “We knew students were going to like it, but we’re getting a lot of positive feedback from those with allergies and those without. There’s a real appreciation for the variety that we have.”
Allergen-free options aren’t new at Holy Cross, though previously allergen-free options needed to be ordered in advance.
“We believed it was inconvenient for students to have to order ahead and have to remember to order ahead,” Perna said. “Students might forget, and they have enough stress in their lives.”
To create a permanent allergen-free food station, food services used a space originally home to a gluten-free station to create The Base. Perna has plans for the gluten-free station to return and feature an array of options.
While food is served at The Base, cooking is performed within a designated section of the kitchen that is free of the Top 10 allergens. The dining services team has also taken allergen safety training to ensure there is no cross-contamination.
“The equipment is free of the Top 10. That whole area is free of the Top 10. Nothing is allowed in that area if it has a containment of one of these Top 10 allergens,” Perna said.
Each meal at The Base includes two entrees, a vegetable and a starch. The station also offers a stir-fry option that is also top 10 allergen-free. Students select specifically what they want and a sauce.
Perna envisions more variety at The Base, too, such as Korean bowls, which could debut by the end of the month.
“It’ll be fun, exciting and different,” Perna said. “It will be a rotating menu. That’s what we want to do with all our stations. We don’t want there to be necessarily pizza or burgers every day. It’s that each of these stations are constantly changing and rotating.”
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