Students with Type 1 Diabetes say dining halls don’t have enough options


Evan Robinson-Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Weinberg sophomore Hugo Compton studies at Norris University Center. Compton has Type 1 Diabetes, which he said can significantly affect his academic performance.

Neya Thanikachalam, Assistant Campus Editor

Students with Type 1 Diabetes said they often lack the healthy meal options they need on campus, adding to the difficulties of dealing with a chronic illness.

Weinberg sophomore Melanie Wolter said her illness has an impact on every decision she makes in her life.

“It affects what I eat, when I eat, if I’m going to exercise, if (my blood sugar is) low and I can’t get to class on time, if (my sugar is) high and I can’t think straight enough to study,” Wolter said.

Students with diabetes need to monitor their meals to make sure they don’t have too much or too little sugar in their bodies. Oftentimes, this requires calculating the amount of carbohydrates or sugars in the food they eat and dosing insulin accordingly.

Wolter said this was difficult while she was on the University’s meal plan because she wasn’t able to find many low-carb foods in dining halls — an essential component to maintaining her blood sugar levels.

Currently, Wolter lives and eats her meals in the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house. She said it’s much easier to eat healthily now because there are always low-carb options available to her.

However, Georgene Sardis, Compass Group’s marketing director, said the University has dining hall options that cater to students with diabetes. Students can view nutrition information online or on the campus dining app, she added. If students have any further trouble, they can talk to the campus dietician Lisa Carlson.

“Every day and every meal period we offer an abundant amount of healthy food options for anyone — whether the student has diabetes or not — to enjoy,” Sardis said. “We do have to offer the more indulgent items. We offer that choice as part of the inclusive dining experience for everyone to enjoy.”

Despite this, Wolter said she mainly ate yogurt and granola while on the meal plan because other protein options, like chicken, weren’t cooked. Meat was often served with sauce that contained an unknown amount of sugar, she added, making it hard for her to calculate her insulin doses.

Weinberg sophomore Hugo Compton was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at three years old. Therefore, he said he’s had a lot of time to learn how to count carbs and adjust his insulin dose, but understands how the lack of sufficient labels in the dining halls might be more difficult to navigate for a newer diabetic.

“I don’t think (the dining halls) really showed the carbs, or if they did (it) was just for one serving,” Compton said. “It was just a little off because (labels list) mostly calories and stuff, which isn’t helpful for me.”

Compton said he wants to start a club for diabetics at NU so students with diabetes would know they weren’t alone in their experiences and would have support while at the University.

If his blood sugar is not at the right level, Compton said he feels delirious or sleepy and has difficulty focusing. Both Wolter and Compton are registered with AccessibleNU because their blood sugar levels can affect their academic performance — so much so that Compton said he “can’t function” when his blood sugar is off.

However, Compton added that even though he’s had diabetes for 17 years, there are still times when he can’t control his sugar levels. Earlier in the quarter, he was hospitalized after he couldn’t bring his blood sugar up. Wolter agreed that constantly fluctuating blood sugar was one of the most frustrating aspects of having diabetes.

“There’s certain days where I just know I’m doing everything right,” Wolter said. “And my blood sugar’s still high, and that makes me feel bad… I’ll have to deal with that challenge theoretically for the rest of my life.”

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Twitter: @neyachalam

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated what Melanie Wolter intended to say in a quote. Wolter was describing how her blood sugar affects her daily activities. The Daily regrets the error.