Food at Tremont: Nutrition, Allergies and Special Dietary Needs

Family atmosphere
The kitchen staff at Tremont wants to make everyone feel welcome at our family’s dinner table. As a residential center, we are more like a family home than a hotel. Where do people congregate during gatherings at your home? The kitchen. The dining hall is that central gathering place for us at Tremont, too. Meals bring us together physically and emotionally to share meals and stories. For this reason, we serve meals Family Style, where serving trays come to the tables and guests pass them around to each person. In this manner, everyone is responsible for putting food on his or her own plate. And like grandma’s house, adult guests will be glad that the coffee pot is always on and a selection of herbal and black teas are available as well.

Healthy bodies and a healthy environment
As an environmental education organization, we recognize that food is a valuable natural resource with far reaching implications with regard to both healthy people and a healthy environment. Diets that are rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains; as well as low in hydrogenated oils, sugars, and chemical additives and preservatives; contribute to healthy bodies. Foods that are procured locally with minimal processing, pesticides, and herbicides contribute to more healthy environments and economies.

Whenever possible, we promote these basic values. Like any family or small business, though, we are limited financially and geographically in what we can offer. Currently, we buy these local East TN products: Mayfield milk, Valley Home Farm eggs. We make a variety of healthy choices available, including a full salad bar with lunch and dinner, and fresh fruit is available at all times.

Vegetarian diets
Many of our participants and some staff members are vegetarians. We recognize the value of a meat free diet – it can be better both for healthy bodies (lower saturated fats and more fiber) and a healthy environment (less resource intensive to produce). To support those who choose a vegetarian diet, we always provide a meatless alternative.

Providing for special dietary needs (Refer to this chart for more information.)
We want our guests, especially those with food allergies and special dietary needs, to feel safe as they sit down to eat in our dining hall. We cook nutritious meals in a safe manner to ensure our guests are comfortable and well fed. However, we cannot accommodate every situation and need. The following is a brief list of what we CAN do to help.

  1. In most cases, we can provide information regarding the food being served in as timely and accurate manner as possible. This includes access to food labels.
  2. In many cases, we can provide an alternative to our standard menu items (e.g. nut-free desserts). This requires advanced notice – at least two weeks ahead of your program. Note: Vegans should call or email 2 weeks ahead and possibly plan on bringing some food items.
  3. The more time in advance we have the information, the better we can prepare. It is often impossible to accommodate once your program has started.
  4. We can provide limited storage space for supplemental food and drinks for our guests, both dry storage and temperature-controlled (food cannot be kept in the dorm!).
  5. We can, within reason, prepare alternative food items (that you provide) when necessary. Prior communication (two weeks) and approval from the kitchen is required for food preparation: heating, baking, or assembly (such as sandwiches, etc.).
  6. We can help our guests with special food needs in a discreet manner while being respectful of the needs of the rest of the group

The following is a list of things that we CANNOT do at this time.

  1. We cannot guarantee a nut free environment. We serve items with nuts and traces of nuts (both ground and tree nuts) on a regular basis. We do not serve these items to guests with allergies and can provide alternatives. We encourage parents to send supplemental desserts and snacks, as these are the two areas where there is the biggest risk of accidental ingestion.
  2. We cannot provide a separate gluten-free menu. We can provide gluten-free alternatives; such as grilled vs. breaded chicken, but not the more cost prohibitive specialty breads, pastas, etc. We are able (requires kitchen manager approval –[email protected]) to prepare specialty items brought by individuals. Gluten free eating is a challenge, we recognize, and we will do whatever we can to work with you to try to accommodate.
  3. Beyond offering PB&J, we cannot make special accommodations for ”picky” eaters, with the exception for special needs students, e.g. autism and others. These guests may require unique planning and attention.
  4. We cannot allow any guests to use any kitchen equipment, save the microwave, and then only with permission. This is a safety, sanitation, and liability issue and no exceptions will be granted.
  5. We cannot accommodate certain specialty diets (e.g. low-carb, low sodium). We encourage guests with such special needs to contact the kitchen manager ([email protected]) BEFORE their visit to make arrangements, if necessary. We will be happy to do what we can to help their visit be a safe and nutritious one.

Our food service team needs the following information for any guest with allergies or other dietary needs.

  1. The specific type of allergy or sensitivity
  2. The severity of the allergy, i.e. can you be around the allergen? Is it ingestion only or contact? etc.
  3. The amount and kind of supplemental food you are bringing and any pertinent details about the food.
  4. For minors: Parent or guardian contact information to verify or answer allergy questions that may arise during the program. Sometimes the information provided may not be complete.

Please refer to this chart for more information.