New dietician working to bring more diversity to food at WCU


Courtyard Dining Plant-Based station. Photo by Logan King and Saydie Bean.

Catamount Dining has added a new member to their team, dietician Meghan Dempsey. Dempsey received her bachelor’s in nutrition from Appalachian State University and started as dining’s only registered dietician at the beginning of the semester. 

Dempsey has been tabling at Courtyard Dining’s cafeteria by the coffee station, awaiting students’ concerns and questions. In an interview with The Western Carolinian, she explained that the biggest part of her role is helping students with utilizing their meal plans and working through different food choices.  

 While here, she wants to plan outreach events while interacting with WCU students. Her main goal is to “help students feel empowered with their ability to find healthy foods and navigate their food allergies.” 

 What are students saying? 

 Dietary-restricted students are having a hard time finding safe foods within dining. Gluten-Free Friends (GFF) on Instagram reached out to the Carolinian after an anonymous freshman took their survey regarding how gluten-free their college is; their response was “no options in dining halls besides potentially contaminated vegetables.” The student later said that their biggest challenge was being able to buy groceries that could be “kept in a mini fridge or made in a microwave. 

 In an article from GFF, colleges are advised to comply with dietary guidelines because, “in February of 2019, the United States Department of Justice determined that Rider University violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to accommodate students with disabilities as a result of food allergies.” It was determined this can violate Title III of the ADA since food-related disabilities are protected. 

 Senior Jonathon Navarrete, a WCU resident, suffers from Celiac disease which creates a sensitivity to gluten. Navarrete told the Carolinian “the biggest issue is the only real things that are gluten-free half the time are normally the meat patties and the vegetables.” Oftentimes, he goes through the day only eating one meal due to the lack of gluten-free options. Even his meat patties have gluten since they are made with breadcrumbs.  

 Another student, freshman Addison Garris, wants to see more gluten-free options. Garris has a gluten allergy and believes everyone would benefit from increased transparency. “I think all WCU students would benefit from having what everything is written on the little glass coverings and what allergens are in the food itself, so we don’t have to play a guessing game every time we eat,” she suggested. 

 Changes to dining 

 In the same interview with Dempsey, Residential District Manager Jeffrey Marshall encouraged students to come to the dining advisory board (DSAB) meetings because the top dining members are present to answer students’ questions. Marshall said that these meetings are the best way to communicate with Catamount Dining. The DSAB met Feb. 15 in the Brown cafeteria’s sunset room. The next meeting is being scheduled, tentatively for March.

 In order to make necessary changes, students are asked to voice what they want.  

 Dempsey and Marshall encourage students to reach out to either themselves or “The more student involvement we can have, the better it’s going to be. More students can voice to me and the direction they want, I can use the information to tailor for what the students want,” said Dempsey.  

 For more information or questions, contact Dempsey by visiting her desk in Courtyard, calling 828-331-9737, or by emailing 

Photo of Courtyard Dining’s Catamount Cafe sign by Saydie Bean and Logan King.