I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD) four years ago, and ever since then it has been a struggle for me to find food available to eat. Celiac Disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) which damages the small intestine. I have found it incredibly challenging to eat gluten-free (GF) meals in Dining Services. Last year, as a freshman, I didn’t feel comfortable challenging DS with their approach for special dietary needs. However, two weeks ago, I met with a dietician to address this problem, and she was less than pleased. She had no idea what Celiac Disease was and what effects eating gluten can have on people with CD. During our meeting, I mentioned that last year for the Christmas meal, I could only eat mashed potatoes and green beans; everything else had gluten in it. I asked her for some simple things to be added in DS such as a different flavor of gluten-free cereal and some GF granola.
There is still a problem with the accessibility of all of the GF products in DS: they are behind Bliss. In order for me to receive any GF foods, I have to ask a worker in DS to get me those foods. I cannot go behind the counter myself and put some cereal in my bowl, for example. By the time I receive my GF item(s), my friends are already eating their food. I try to avoid this problem by looking on NetNutrition where the DS menus are posted with the ingredients for each food. I have used this website quite often in hopes of figuring out what foods I can eat, and it takes an immense amount of time to look up each meal and then filter out wheat and gluten. After that, I read through all of the ingredients to make sure that the food is indeed GF. I have actually read through the ingredient list of several foods only to find that they contain gluten. With this discovery, I do not consider NetNutrition to be credible.
Instead of students going through the hassle of going on NetNutrition, it would be easier to include the dietary labels either on the display monitors or the display cards. DS has already incorporated vegetarian display cards influenced by the new dietician who has that dietary need. If DS can put out labels for vegetarian foods, can’t they also put out labels for GF, lactose-free, vegan, nut-free, etc.? I am aware that this would take extra time, but the time spent doing it would be worth it in the long run if it meant helping students with their dietary needs and making it more convenient. I have talked with other students on campus who have special dietary needs, and having DS add labels to their foods would make it easier for these students to find something they can eat. As a student, I expect Dining Services to cater to the special dietary needs of the Concordia community.
This article was submitted by Krista Paulson, contributing writer.