New partnership brings allergen-free desserts to Marquette's dining hall

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A local business is partnering with Marquette University to bring students with dietary restrictions more food options in the dining hall.

Through Marquette’s Eat Local initiative, products from Pink Bakery Inc. are coming to Marquette.

Nubian Simmons is the owner of Pink Bakery, which makes allergen-free baking mix products. It's a local, Black-owned business on the near west side, and Simmons says the idea behind her business stems from her personal challenges with food allergies.

"I've been allergic to milk my whole life. We would try some of the allergy-free things and they weren't that good, so I struggled in that space," said Simmons.

The Pink Bakery owner describes a childhood full of missing out on enjoying her favorites sweets. "With my siblings, when we would go out,  they would have brownie a la mode, apple pie, all these amazing desserts and I had to have orange slices, and I was tired of having orange slices, I wanted cake," she said.

In an effort to have her cake and eat it too, Simmons created her baking line. "I had no culinary experience, but I had a desire to make some things that would taste amazing and not hurt me," she said. Simmons wants to continue to help others with similar experiences and says the partnership with Marquette and Sodexo's Simple Servings program will do just that.

Simple Servings is a program that gives students peace of mind by providing meals free of the major allergens. "The one thing that Simple Servings has been missing is that dessert option that we wanted to be able to provide students," said Anthony Damico, executive chef at Marquette's dining hall.

Chef Damico says after sitting down with Nubian and hearing her story, he knew it mirrored what a lot of students on campus experience with dietary issues. Clare Kirchner, a Marquette freshman, is one of those students. I have anaphylaxis to dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts," said Kirchner. She says choosing a college was scary for her because she knew she needed a place that would help support her dietary needs. "I didn’t think I'd be able to live in a dorm because of the food allergy restriction," she said. Her experience with the Simple Servings program has made her feel safe.

The Pink Bakery collaboration is part of Marquette's Eat Local initiative to bring a taste of Milwaukee to the dining hall.

Brian Kawa is the resident district manager for Marquette's dining services. "In spring of 2021, we started the local initiative here on campus, where we were partnering with local restaurants who may have been struggling during the pandemic, to bring them into our dining centers." Kawa says over the summer that effort continued. As a Black-owned and woman-owned business, Simmons says she's grateful for the support. "It's a dream come true," she said.

Marquette's dining hall is also open to the public. You can also visit thepinkbakery.com for more on The Pink Bakery.

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