STORY BY ANGELA UFHEIL
College students face many stressors, including living away from home, meeting new friends and taking challenging college courses.
But students with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the small intestine and causes stomach pain when gluten is ingested, face an extra burden: Learning what is safe to eat in the university dining hall.
According to the Mayo Clinic, one out of 100 people are afflicted with celiac disease. Research shows that celiac disease is four times more common today than it was 60 years ago, and can lead to multiple sclerosis, anemia, osteoporosis and other issues if not treated early.
The only treatment is a gluten-free diet. Gluten, a protein found in barley, wheat and rye, is used in most breads and pastas. But what happens to students who must rely on the university to supply them with gluten-free foods?
A National Foundation for Celiac Awareness surveyed 1,000 gluten-free college students in 2012.
Their results showed that 38 percent of students surveyed never eat in the campus dining hall, 61 percent said the Dining Services Director was not aware or only somewhat aware of nutritional information related to a gluten-free diet, 61 percent said they are uncomfortable eating in the dining hall and 60 percent have accidentally ingested gluten from eating at a dining hall or food service establishment on campus.
The survey also showed that universities need to better accommodate students, and Drake is helping see that through.
Dannie Crozier, general manager of Drake’s Sodexo food team, highlights the “Simple Servings” line as a prime success for Hubbell.
“Simple Servings” is an allergen-free meal served next to the classic meal that most students eat.
“We try to mirror the classic entry next to it so that the meal is not that different for the student,” Crozier said. “If the classic meal is a pulled barbeque pork sandwich, we can use that meat without the bun for kids with allergies.”
The classic and “Simple Servings” meals are usually prepared separately to avoid cross-contamination. Campus Dietitian Lucas Flaherty oversees preparations and checks gluten-free recipes.
“If they aren’t following that recipe, it may no longer fit in to the allergen station,” Flaherty said.
Hubbell has also added “My Zone,” a cabinet filled with gluten free breads, muffins and other goodies.
Flaherty is proud of “My Zone,” and said it is receiving positive reviews.
“I’ve had students come up to me while I’m stocking the cabinet and saying, ‘you’re doing a good job, keep the variety,’” Flaherty said.
Cassandra Hardy, a Drake sophomore with celiac disease, agrees that “My Zone” is a good addition.
“It’s nice to be able to grab cookies and muffins that I wasn’t able to get last year when my friends had dessert,” Hardy said.
But Hardy thinks improvements could still be made.
“I wish they had more, especially at lunch,” Hardy said. “The Simple Service station sometimes only has rice and broccoli, rather than actual food that is quality.” Crozier also wants to see more changes.
“This is our pilot,” Crozier said. “We’re hoping, in the future, that if there is a remodel, we can designate a spot for ‘Simple Service’ and ‘My Zone.’”
However, there are budget concerns. Gluten-free food can be expensive, and if students without celiac disease take food from “My Zone,” problems could arise.
“It would cause a strain in the budget,” Crozier said.
Despite the possible increase in cost, Crozier still wants to provide for students with celiac disease.
“We see an increase in the need,” Crozier said. “We want to serve that demographic.”