Food allergies? We have an app for that

Posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Two uOttawa employees on stage receiving an award from the award sponsor.
From left: Danny Albert, manager of the uOttawa Card Service, and Patrick Genest, director of Food Services, receive the 2016 NACCU Innovative Technology Award from Brett St. Pierre of HID Global, sponsors of the award.

By Maryann Moffitt and Myriam Hugron

A buffet can be a beautiful thing.  But if you have food allergies, self-serve buffets can be a cross-contamination nightmare. Food Services had a problem: how to offer safe meals in the 24/7 Dining Hall to students with allergies. As is so often the case with millennials, their phone was the answer.

Screen capture of the app, showing some of the available meal choices.

To provide a safe food experience to students on meal plans, Food Services opted for a smart-phone rather than a web-based solution, using the Tapingo food ordering app and offering a menu for those with dietary restrictions. The result? In April, the University received the Innovative Technology Award from the National Association of Campus Card Users for North America (NACCU) for its unique dietary restriction program.

Food Services has also been invited to work with Food Allergy Canada to develop national guidelines for universities across the country — recognition that uOttawa is ahead of the curve with this program.

The process is simple. Students with allergies sign up to use the free, bilingual app. From their phone, they can choose from a variety of allergen-free meals, place personalized orders and later pick up their meal in the dining hall. It’s as easy as gluten-free pie!

The cool app is only part of what it takes to deliver a safe meal. Orders are prepared in a separate kitchen by a specially trained cook. Meals are covered and labelled with the student’s name and allergies, and stay covered until served to the student. This process eliminates most of the risk of cross contamination. 

But the Tapingo app can do much more. Imagine skipping the line to get your Starbucks every morning … that’s coming, too. Food Services will launch the Tapingo app for everyone on campus at select locations in the next few months. Stay tuned!

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