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    Community Voices

    Food & Nutrition Friday: Recipe Swap

    <p>Food & Nutrition Friday: Recipe Swap</p>
    Community Voices

    Food Suggestions?

    Hi all! I have difficulty consuming enough calories each day. I don’t usually feel hungry but I notice on days when I eat a lot of calories, I have more energy the next day. Does anyone have any suggestions for increasing appetite/enjoyment from eating? In particular, do you know of any food kit suggestions like Hello Fresh that are allergy friendly? #Food #noappetite #Fibromyalgia #FoodAllergies

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    Community Voices

    Food & Nutrition Friday- Food Resource Find: The Diabetic Gourmet Magazine

    <p>Food & Nutrition Friday- Food Resource Find: The Diabetic Gourmet Magazine</p>
    2 people are talking about this
    Community Voices

    Food & Nutrition Friday: Healthy Eating Basics For Diabetes

    <p>Food & Nutrition Friday: Healthy Eating Basics For <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/diabetes/?label=Diabetes" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ce7700553f33fe99129c" data-name="Diabetes" title="Diabetes" target="_blank">Diabetes</a></p>
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    Monika Sudakov

    4 Things I've Learned About Disability Accessibility as a Small Business Owner

    When my husband and I purchased our bed and breakfast in 2005, we deliberately sought out a property that was already in business with the knowledge that an existing inn would already have gotten any licenses and permits necessary to comply with all necessary laws and regulations, including those regarding accessibility. While this was true to an extent, as the years have gone on, some laws have changed and the simple act of encountering guests of varying needs has forced us to adapt our accessibility accommodations. The following are some of the things we have learned that have informed how we do business and have made us better hosts to all of our guests regardless of their disabilities or unique needs. These are factors that any restaurant or inn might consider so that they can accommodate the greatest number of clientele possible. 1. Layout. I understand that the bottom line for any business is profitability, but sometimes, maximizing profitability isn’t what’s best for customer service. Cramming as many guests in as possible seems like the best way to turn a profit in a business where margins are already slim. But having tables crowded too close together poses a number of issues regarding accessibility. First, the obvious issue of not leaving enough space between tables is the ability of someone in a wheelchair to navigate between tables, particularly when every chair is full. Second, having tables too close together can be a noise issue. For those with noise sensitivities or hearing loss, the ability to socialize with others at their table without the disruption of ambient noise and overhearing everyone else’s conversations is a huge issue. And finally, in today’s world where COVID is becoming endemic, it makes good epidemiological sense to spread tables out, enabling good airflow and the social distancing needed to make dining out less of a dangerous activity. I can see you counting dollar signs and wondering how you are supposed to offset lost revenue by limiting the number of tables. Fewer tables mean less staff, and each staff member can handle a slightly larger station. And I’d argue that people are willing to pay a little more for a more comfortable ambiance. Creating better flow is good business because it’s responsible business practice. 2. Good communication regarding dietary restrictions. I’ve written extensively about accommodating dietary restrictions being good business and have contributed several articles including recipes focused on different types of dietary restrictions and accessibility needs. But I haven’t discussed the challenges of getting the correct information that I need to be able to insure that not only are you safe, but your meals are delicious. Part of this is on me, or any employee working in the hospitality arena. I ask about dietary restrictions both online during the reservation process and over the phone when taking reservations, but I don’t always make clear that dietary restrictions aren’t just allergies or intolerances. There is a myriad of considerations that I personally want to know, including likes/dislikes. The last thing I want is to feed you poached eggs when you hate runny eggs. That’s something that I could have easily adjusted with the correct information. But there’s a more nuanced aspect of dietary restrictions that for some reason has been harder to get clear instruction on, and that is food sensitivities having to do with neurodivergence including autism and sensory processing disorder. I have in the past had teenagers and young adults who require very specific types of foods, textures, and temperatures, and need individual ingredients separated so that they don’t touch. I am more than happy to accommodate this type of request as it’s important to me that everyone be able to dine with us. However, I find that would-be guests are less likely to bring this kind of request up specifically and instead dance around the issue. I suspect that too often they are met with suspicion or judgment of some kind, which makes me sad. My earnest request for these individuals is to be upfront. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for these needs to be met, but I’m not a mind reader, and if you aren’t specific, I may not realize the context of what you are requesting. The bottom line: regardless of what the request is, please be upfront, clear, and ask. In almost every case, if I am able to, I will go out of my way to accommodate you and your loved ones, but it takes two to tango, so I’ll need you to be my partner in getting your needs met. 3. Education. I admit that as the years have progressed and I’ve encountered more and more guests with varying accessibility needs, I have had to do the necessary research to educate myself on each particular situation and condition. Part of my ongoing awareness has been connecting with those in the Mighty community. I’ll be the first to say I’ve made my fair share of mistakes based on my lack of knowledge and understanding. I am humble enough to say I was wrong or acting out of some kind of implicit ableism thanks to my own privilege. While it’s nobody’s job to teach me, my true desire to give people the greatest possible hospitality experience has offered me the opportunity to listen and adapt. For example, the types of different diets and food protocols that individuals are utilizing to manage chronic illness have expanded exponentially. Where it used to be a single ingredient or a handful of ingredients, like gluten-free or dairy-free, the list now includes things like Low Fodmap, Paleo, Keto, and Autoimmune Protocol. I know many people think these types of diets are fads and view them with some skepticism, but I personally have witnessed the beneficial impact these diets have had on others, so I have made it my mission to become an expert in each one and to refresh my knowledge every time these guests come to dine or stay with us, adjusting as new information is added. Again, everyone deserves to experience fine dining, regardless of their needs. 4. Evolution. I’m not talking about Darwin here, although I do believe that in business, today more than ever, it’s survival of the fittest, and those who can evolve and adapt can continue to succeed. COVID certainly proved this point where hospitality has been concerned. As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been in business for 17 years. When we first got here, a basic website and a handful of listings on online directories were all we had to deal with where online presence was concerned. Over the course of the past several years, we’ve had to expand our marketing to include all kinds of social media and digital content, and have had to rebuild our website numerous times, most recently to accommodate changes in requirements for websites to be accessible for the visually impaired. This is the type of evolution I’m talking about…something that I hadn’t considered but that absolutely makes sense and is the right thing to do. Other considerations have been how we could accommodate wheelchairs in our dining room, even though all of our guest suites are on the second floor and due to the historical nature of our property (it was built in 1854) we were not required to make any additional changes based on ADA requirements. While certainly not ideal, we have utilized temporary ramps that enable our guests in wheelchairs to dine with us. Additionally, we have added support railings to our front entrance, have two showers that are walk-in showers rather than shower/tub combos, and have put refrigerators in all guest suites to accommodate guests needing to refrigerate medication. They are small things, but as situations arise and we figure out how to implement changes that are not cost-prohibitive, we make them. We are always a work in progress, but the goal is to make progress and consistently expand our ability to serve as many individuals from as diverse a cross-section of the population as we can. Part of this includes safety and comfort for those with disabilities of all kinds. We listen, we pay attention, we learn, and we adapt. That’s the best any business owner can do, but it takes a conscious effort and a desire to commit to viewing running a business as more of a holistic practice.

    How to Make a Restaurant Accessible to Customers With Disabilities

    Yelp and The Mighty recently released a list of the most wheelchair accessible restaurants in the United States. But what exactly makes a restaurant disability-friendly? If you’re a restaurant owner, manager, or staff member, you may be wondering what you can do to make your business welcoming and inclusive. Here are 10 tips to make your restaurant more accessible for customers who have disabilities. Please note that I am not an architect or a lawyer, and this guide is not a substitute for complying with the Americans With Disabilities Act regulations for businesses. 1. Leave plenty of space between tables so walker, scooter, and wheelchair users can get through. Restaurant tables should be spaced as far apart as possible, with at least 36-inch-wide aisles so mobility device users can pass through without other diners having to get up or pull their chairs in. If some sections of the restaurant cannot be readily made accessible, create an accessible section in a desirable part of the restaurant, with window tables if there’s a view, so that diners with disabilities don’t get an inferior experience. If you use a reservation system, make sure it allows customers to voluntarily note that they need accessible seating. 2. Choose tables and chairs that are accessible to diners with physical disabilities. The ADA requires that tables range from 28-34″ in height with at least 27″ of vertical clearance to allow most standard wheelchairs to fit underneath. When choosing tables, make sure there is at least 19″ of horizontal space underneath for a wheelchair user’s legs and that there are no sharp edges under the tables or on the legs. If you are installing booths, ensure that the booth leg is in the middle of the table, not the end, so that wheelchair users can sit at the end. Don’t forget the bar! Make sure your bar has a lowered portion and/or that there are accessible-height tables in the bar area. With that said, don’t assume that people with disabilities would always want or need the accessible tables. For example, many power wheelchairs can raise up, allowing the user to sit at a bar. Choose comfortable chairs that come in versions with and without armrests. Some people with mobility disabilities may need the support of armrests to sit and stand, while some larger people may not be able to fit in a chair with armrests. For barstools, try to provide at least some that have backs. 3. Offer outdoor dining when weather permits. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, dining outdoors has become more popular, and for many people with disabilities, it’s essential. Many people with both visible disabilities and invisible chronic illnesses are at high risk of severe COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, and therefore still cannot safely dine indoors. Offering outdoor seating makes your restaurant accessible to people who otherwise could not dine out at all. When choosing outdoor tables, refer to the indoor table guidelines above. Note that picnic tables are usually inaccessible as wheelchair users can only sit at the end, and the end often doesn’t stick out far enough to accommodate someone’s legs under the table. Wheelchair-accessible picnic tables do exist, but other options will be safer and more comfortable for people who do not use wheelchairs but need a chair with a back and/or armrests. 4. Make your menu accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. There are several easy, low-cost ways to make restaurant menus accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. One of the simplest is to post the menu on your website using HTML/text. This allows people with a screen reader on their phone to listen to the menu, or to make the print larger so they can read it. You can also make an audio recording of someone reading the menu and post it on the website. Many restaurants are now using QR codes to access their menus, which can be a great solution for blind people. However, the menu must be in HTML/text format, as a PDF or image will not be accessible to screen readers. If you are a server at a restaurant that uses QR codes and have a blind customer, be sure to let them know that there is a QR code and offer to assist them in locating and using it. Since not all people with low vision have or know how to use assistive technology on their phones, it’s important to offer additional options. Large print menus are easy to make and helpful to elderly people who may not be smartphone savvy. You can also have Braille menus printed. 5. Be ready to assist deaf and hard-of-hearing customers. People who are deaf or hard of hearing have a variety of ways of communicating. Some use American Sign Language, and may utilize an interpreter when placing their order. If a deaf person is talking to you using sign language, look at them rather than their interpreter. When assisting a hard-of-hearing customer, speak clearly while looking at them. Be aware that restaurants are extremely difficult environments for people who are hard of hearing because of all the background noise. Don’t get frustrated if the person asks you to repeat yourself multiple times. Offer to use pen and paper, have them type their order on their phone screen, or encourage them to point to the items they want on the menu. Another easy accommodation for deaf and hard of hearing customers is to laminate menus and provide a dry-erase marker. Then the customer can circle what they want and write any substitutions on the menu, so there’s no miscommunication. After they’ve ordered, simply wipe off the menu and it’s ready for the next customer. 6. Be aware of common food allergies and offer allergy-safe entrees. Not all disabilities are visible, and food allergies and intolerances are common conditions that make dining out difficult. Sadly, diners with food allergies sometimes get stereotyped as picky or difficult by people who do not understand the potentially life-threatening impact of exposure to an allergen. Some allergies can cause anaphylaxis that requires an Epi-Pen and immediate medical attention. For people with celiac disease, even cross-contamination from cooking pots or a crumb of bread on a piece of food can cause severe illness. Developing cross-contamination prevention protocols and offering an allergy-friendly menu can give your restaurant the opportunity to serve a group of customers that will greatly need and appreciate your food. Even if your restaurant is not specifically allergy-friendly, you can make dining out safer for people with allergies and intolerances by making an ingredient list available. You don’t have to give up recipe secrets or disclose the exact amount of ingredients to keep diners with allergies safe, only whether an ingredient is present or could be present due to cross-contamination. 7. Provide easy-to-use utensils, straws, and food cutting service. People with limited hand coordination can have a wide variety of needs when it comes to utensils. Often, they will carry some kind of device to adapt utensils or bring their own utensils. When buying utensils for your restaurant, choose standard handles and avoid utensils that are heavy. If your restaurant uses chopsticks, be sure to have forks available for people who are unable to use chopsticks. Sometimes people with disabilities may not order certain foods because they can’t cut them without assistance and are afraid of inconveniencing kitchen staff. Let customers know they can have kitchen staff cut food into bite-size pieces. If you serve foods that are more difficult or complex to eat, such as crab legs or lobster, proactively inform customers that they can be peeled or shelled at no extra charge. Straws have become a contentious issue due to their perceived environmental hazards, although plastic bags and commercial waste cause far more damage to the environment. Many people with disabilities need straws to drink, so you should always have some available. If you do not provide straws automatically, be sure that servers are instructed to not question any request for a straw, even if the person does not appear to have a disability, since many health conditions are invisible. Paper straws tend to fall apart and may be unsafe, and metal straws are very hazardous as they can injure a person’s mouth, or poke them in the eye or cheek if they have limited coordination. If you are providing reusable straws, silicone straws are the safest choice, but you should still have some disposable plastic bendy straws on hand. 8. Make your restrooms accessible and inclusive. If there’s one thing that frustrates me the most as a wheelchair user, it’s enjoying a meal only to find out that the restroom is not accessible. What goes in must come out, and restaurants and bars need restrooms that anyone can use. Discussing the exact specifications of accessible restrooms goes beyond the scope of this article, but you can read a guide here. Most importantly, wheelchair users must be able to park next to the toilet in the stall, and have grab rails so they can transfer from wheelchair to toilet and back. If you are building or remodeling a restaurant, gender-neutral/family bathrooms are an ideal, inclusive way to create accessibility for all. Many people with disabilities may need assistance in the restroom from someone of a different gender, or they may be gender non-conforming and need a neutral restroom. These restrooms also provide more space and privacy for individuals who may need to use a catheter or change a diaper or colostomy bag. 9. Be welcoming to service dogs. The Americans With Disabilities Act protects the right of service dog handlers to take them in all public places, including restaurants. Service dogs cannot be restricted to outdoor dining or banned from the buffet area. Many people do not want strangers to pet or interact with their service dog, so servers should offer compliments about the dog to the handler, not directly to the dog. If the handler is OK with people petting their dog, they will say so. It is appropriate for servers to offer to get a bowl of water for the dog. Many business owners worry about fake service dogs disrupting their place of business. Service dogs assist people with both visible and invisible disabilities, so do not assume that a dog is fake because the handler doesn’t look like what you think of when you hear the word “disabled.” Service dogs do not have to be “certified” or have “papers” of any kind, as some handlers train their own dogs, so you are not allowed to ask for any such documentation. The Department of Justice has provided guidance about appropriate questions that can be asked regarding a service dog. Businesses do not have to allow dogs that are dangerous or disruptive, whether they are service dogs or not. If a service dog is barking inappropriately, growling at people, or has an accident on the floor, it is perfectly legal to require the handler to remove the dog. 10. Train servers and cooks on how to interact with customers who have disabilities. Last but not least, servers and kitchen staff should be trained on how to create a welcoming and supportive environment for customers with disabilities. Discuss the most accessible seating areas and how to help those with mobility devices navigate to their seat. Make sure servers are aware of all the accessibility provisions available; Braille menus are useless if nobody knows you have them to offer to customers. Discuss common food allergies and intolerances and questions they are likely to be asked about ingredients. Talk to servers about avoiding common disability slurs. Make sure they know to treat people with disabilities like other customers. Don’t speak to people with intellectual disabilities like children, and don’t call people with disabilities (or someone who is helping them) inspirational for doing everyday tasks. Don’t pet or talk to service dogs without permission. These tips can help you make your restaurant a place that is welcoming and inclusive of all people. Who knows, maybe you’ll make Yelp’s list next year!

    Community Voices

    Food & Nutrition Friday: Recipe Swap

    <p>Food & Nutrition Friday: Recipe Swap</p>
    Community Voices

    Food & Nutrition Friday: The Hangry Woman

    <p>Food & Nutrition Friday: The Hangry Woman</p>

    How Baking and Dessert Can Help Combat Food Trauma

    In a lot of diet culture-related media, you often see ads targeted toward not having dessert. Either that or the dessert advertised is low in whatever Instagram and fatphobic dieticians have decided to rage war against. Dessert was supposed to be “bad,” and I think for a lot of people it gives them a lot of anxiety to this day, but for me, it’s the opposite. Dessert has been my saving grace against my eating disorder and my food trauma. If you aren’t familiar with it, food trauma is exactly what it sounds like. It’s trauma pertaining to food, whether it be the consumption of, physical foods, you name it. This can be the result of abuse, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, etc. It’s a specific form of trauma that really makes life difficult because you need to eat to survive. Personally, my food trauma creates a barrier between me and trying new foods. If I’m pushed to try a new food when I personally am not ready, I get very anxious. On top of that, if I’m eating and get full, I have a tendency to sometimes binge eat and force myself to keep eating even when I don’t want to. That stems more from my specific food trauma versus any kind of binge eating disorder. When society is telling you that cake, cookies, ice cream, etc., are “bad,” it’s obvious to create a complex around that specific food group, but for me, it never happened. Dessert is the one food group that I feel completely safe and happy with, and it’s because I have marginally positive memories relating to them. Some of my favorite bonding moments when I was younger were spent making cakes before school with my mom and brother and seeing the joy on everyone’s face when I would bring fresh baked goods to school or work. I love dessert so much, that I even worked for a few years in an ice cream shop, happily. To this day it was one of my most rewarding jobs because of the sheer amount of creativity and fun I could have with it. I created happiness and was able to share it with others, and for someone who is mentally ill, that was everything. Baking, when my attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) allows me to do it, is one of my greatest weapons against my food-related trauma (and mental illnesses in general). In therapy, I used to work on creating new memories as a way to overcome things, places, and people that had a negative or trauma-related association with them. I went years without watching certain shows or listening to music that I once enjoyed all because of the trauma component attached. For me, baking, and the art of doing so, was my way of combating my negative associations with food. Learning the science of baking, keeping the measurements perfect, and learning different piping and baking styles all worked well with different parts of my mentally ill brain, but nothing quite compares to the sheer joy I would get when I tasted my buttercream (which I’m this close to trademarking because I do make the best buttercream in the world), and when I got to share it with others. Food became a source of joy, helping build and bridge the community around me. Whenever I start feeling off due to my food trauma, I’m usually one baking session away from a mental reset. All things are possible through a good buttercream (but not fondant because fondant is actually the worst), including healing. Rewriting negative narratives into positive ones takes a little bit of time, but I know for a fact it can be done whenever I pull my oven mitts on.

    Community Voices

    Food and Nutrition Friday Repeat: Food Assistance Resources

    <p>Food and Nutrition Friday Repeat: Food Assistance Resources</p>