Finding places where the menu meets one’s needs like vegan products,
non-genetically modified food, and
gluten-free meals can be a challenge. At home, one can grocery shop for specific ingredients and items to bring satisfaction, yet those kinds of requests generally aren’t accepted at restaurants as the recipes are already set in stone.
The cafeteria located in the Rogers Student Center, also known as “Apache Junction,” can and will take those requests to meet students’ needs.

Aramark and TJC’s Executive Chef, Edward Pessink, said, “We have a smaller campus so we actually don’t have a lot of people that have those dietary restrictions so we can’t just make them and have them on the ready. There’s a sign up front that states if you need it, just give me a little bit of time so that we can prepare. So they can text me or call me about 15-20 minutes before they show up so we can have something ready for them.”

So what food options can the cafeteria serve that fall into these different food categories? Pessink expands on what Apache Junction has to offer.

“A lot of the items that we produce, like our fried rice and things like that, are made with a gluten-free soy sauce, even our barbecue sauce is gluten-free,” Pessink said. “As far as the vegan goes, we have the black bean burger, and we have a veggie burger that we put out in the regular. The veggie burger isn’t vegan, because I think they use egg, but the black bean burgers are.”
To receive these modifications for one’s meal, it is important to communicate with the cafeteria staff beforehand.

PIcture of watermelon in a bowl

Aramark and TJC’s Food Service Director, Jim Wood, said, “We are 100% accessible through email, phone and personal visits. We can provide what the students need without exception to dietary restrictions if we know about it.”

Some ingredients included in the meals provided may contain things that contradict one’s restrictions, preferences or allergies. Meal cards have been provided to students to know exactly what is being placed into what they eat.

Due to the effects of COVID on items’ availability, substitutions have been made to certain ingredients used in the food served.
Wood mentions that the substitutions are similar to the original ingredients used. “I strongly encourage that if there’s a dish that they might have some questions about, ask before you eat. I’d rather hold the student for five minutes while we verify a recipe than for them to have an allergic reaction.”

With some options already available, some students still request that more food choices to be provided.
Nursing major Kyndal Serenko said, “I believe we should have more options to cater to give students a chance to have something good rather than just packaged items.”

Cafeteria administration makes a concerted effort to provide students with the comfort of home.
“This is an extension of these students’ homes. Our whole agenda here is to treat the students like you’re in your own kitchen,” Wood said. “We’re very open, very approachable and very transparent. But we’re not mind readers. But we can and will accommodate any reasonable request.”

Students can view meals served daily and weekly on the cafeteria’s website, There are vegetarian, vegan and some gluten-free food options available daily. Some examples being: oatmeal, fries, jasmine rice, broccoli and cauliflower, lo mein noodles and more.

There may not be a huge selection of vegan or gluten-free items due to the size of the campus and few students requests being received.
To make special requests that fit any
dietary restrictions or preferences, contact Wood by email at least 15 minutes before desired meal time at or Pessink by phone at (903) 510-2516.