Photo by Aidan Gause

Gluten-Free On Campus

Photo by Aidan Gause

Food allergies are becoming more and more common among people in today’s world.  One allergy that is growing at a steady pace is a disease called Celiac, an allergy to gluten.

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, oat, rye and barley. When a person with a gluten allergy ingests any trace of gluten, they suffer from such symptoms as chronic diarrhea, fatigue, nausea and abdominal pain. The only treatment for Celiac is a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Many grocery stores and restaurants have begun to adopt gluten free products and menus, which has greatly increased the ease of such a diet. However college students with Celiac have another hurdle to overcome—eating meals on campus. The food on many college campuses is tailored to the masses and can be produced in large quantities in order to serve the thousands of students that eat there every day. This makes it very difficult to cater to the few students that have an allergy such as Celiac.

Here at the University of West Georgia, there are two major places for students to eat: the Z-6 and the Wolves Den. The food at the Wolves Den is not very suitable for a person with Celiac because most of it, with the exception of a salad or fruit, is breaded or contains gluten in some way. However the Z-6 offers students a more “home-made dinner” atmosphere and seems to offer more variety for students with allergies.

Amanda Byard, a nursing student at the University of West Georgia, was diagnosed with Celiac in 2008 and has had to change her life style in order to live with her allergy comfortably. When she was a freshman, she was required, like all UWG freshmen, to purchase a meal plan for the Z-6. She had to personally talk to the managers and Head Chef at the Z-6. “It was a fairly complicated process,” said Byard, “I had to contact them via email and then meet with them in person just to explain my allergy and explain the meals that I was able to eat.”

However, even after a personal meeting with the food preparation staff at the Z-6, the food could still contain traces of gluten. “If a single trace of gluten is in my food, I can get sick.  Whether it’s a crumb or a whole piece of bread, it will affect my stomach the same way, which is what makes it so hard,” said Byard.  “They did their best to cater to my needs and were always helpful about trying to make a meal that was safe for me, but I always left there with a stomach ache after eating,” she said.

With more people being affected by this food allergy everyday, the number of students needing special attention at dining halls all over the country will be on the rise. A menu specifically made for students with allergies would be a wise addition to many student-dining facilities, including the Z-6 on campus.





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