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UC Possibilities hosts event about food and accessibility

On May 4th, UC Possibilities student organization hosted an event centered around food. Attendees came away with more information about food as a coping mechanism, a greater understanding of different hidden disabilities, and insight into navigating campus dining with specific dietary needs.

In the midst of studying for finals, the leadership of UC Possibilities, the Ursinus student group focused on increasing awareness of hidden disabilities, was hard at work preparing a timely event to round out their successful semester of advocacy work.

The students, lead by president Sophie Louis, a previous Inclusion and Equity award winner, created an event centered around food. With snacks from Haasis Bakery (a clear demonstration of inclusive practice for dietary needs), students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Bears’ Den for presentations and conversation.

First up was Dr. Mora Reinka, assistant professor of psychology, who presented on food and stress. Certainly timely for finals, Dr. Reinka talked about eating as a coping mechanism and what foods might help to both satisfy cravings and provide nutrients (e.g., berries, dark chocolate, eggs, avocados, etc.). Katie Bean, director of prevention and advocacy, reflected, “Dr. Reinka’s talk provided useful craving alternatives that I hope to implement when I find myself stress-eating.” Similarly, Maddie Benfield, a UC Possibilities executive board member, found it “very helpful” to see “healthier alternatives [for] high-stress situations.”

Then, students presented on a variety of different disabilities, including Celiac’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), EOE, Gastroparesis, and more, sharing their own experiences navigating campus life with disabilities. 

Of these informative presentations, Dr. Reinka noted, “The students showed remarkable empathy and initiative in consistently asking each speaker how they could support them, as well as brainstorming productive suggestions for college policies regarding food allergies and sensitivities.”

Ursinus’ registered dietician, Melinda (Lin) Roberts, was also in attendance. Lin spoke about the options available for students and shared some tips for navigating the dining hall. For instance, the community should be aware that, in places where cross contamination may be high (e.g., the salad bar), folx can ask the dining staff for a portion of the food from “the back” to ensure that it has not yet been exposed to other allergens.

Overall, the event was a great success. Attendees shared their appreciation for the knowledge and vulnerability of the student speakers and came away with some tips to navigate food and finals.

One of the students in attendance, Dora Zeibekis, remarked, “I did not realize just how much I would learn going to this event! The presentation on food and stress really helped me think more about my health - especially during this stressful finals week - and learning about other hidden disabilities definitely made me feel more seen.”

A huge thank you to UC Possibilities and all those who spoke at or attended the event!

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