‘A Mission of Welcome’
Nun Nutritionist Has Served UMD Students for 30 Years
By Karen Shih '09
Photo by John T. Consoli
For new Terps dealing with allergies, health issues or religious requirements, trading the family kitchen for dining halls that serve thousands can be scary. So it’s no surprise that students and parents sometimes wind up taking out their frustration on UMD Dining Services’ quality coordinator and nutritionist.
But that’s only until she introduces herself. “I say, ‘Hi, I’m Sister Maureen Schrimpe.’ And then their tone changes!” she says with a laugh.
Schrimpe’s order is the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and many of its sisters practice their vocation in education—she started out as a physical education teacher. After transitioning to nutrition and working at a small religious college, she sought to make a bigger impact and came to UMD. Her role has evolved over the last three decades, and these days, her main job is ensuring that the growing number of residents with food allergies—more than 600 notified her in Fall 2022—can eat safely on campus. She also oversees student workers who create comprehensive ingredient and allergen lists, posted alongside nutrition information, on the Dining Services website.
Schrimpe takes students through dining halls to teach them about labels on each dish that identify common allergens, as well as whether the dish is vegetarian, vegan and/or halal, and suggests ingredient substitutions. For students with a complex combination of allergies, she works with Dining Services chefs to create tailored meals.
“We have a mission of welcome here, and we want to make sure we can take care of everyone,” she says.
Schrimpe’s identity can cause some confusion. Some people don’t know what to call her; just “Sister” is fine, she says, because she’s the only nun on campus. Other students have asked her if she’ll take their confession (absolutely not—she’s not a priest) and staff members ask her and her sisters to pray for no rain on Maryland Day (she’ll do it, but no guarantees).
Though she’s taken a vow of poverty and has never seen her own paychecks, which go straight to her convent, Schrimpe does enjoy some job perks: attending basketball games, thanks to the free tickets her department receives, and trying companies’ new products when she leads National Nutrition Month events on campus. She’s also created custom sandwiches for two of UMD’s Nobel Prize winners.
“I love my job,” says Schrimpe, who received a 2022 University System of Maryland Board of Regents Staff Award for outstanding service. “We have the best people and such a strong team. I’m so fortunate to be here.”
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