One of my MMC 2100 Writing for Mass Communication students, Miss Sara Kaner, wrote for one of her class assignments an article about food allergy and intolerance-friendly eateries and convenience stores on the University of Florida campus. Today, a shortened version of the article ran in today’s Independent Florida Alligator.
I’m a proud little Mama Duck.
Turns out, living without a car (as many Freshmen do) and with Celiac Disease at UF is a lot easier than I thought. Here’s the full article she wrote:
Gator Dining Services now offers gluten-free items on campus
Pizza, pasta and bread of all varieties are staples in the American diet. Most individuals take these food items for granted on a daily basis, but for people living with Celiac disease, not being able to eat wheat is something that they think about every day.
Individuals living with Celiac disease are not able to ingest any food product containing gluten, for it causes an immune-related toxic reaction that damages the small intestine, according to http://www.celiac.org. This means that people living with this disease cannot eat any form of the gluten proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and other specific grains.
This disease is prevalent in 1 percent of healthy American citizens, according to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, and there are a number of students on the University of Florida campus living with this disease. These students must find ways to eat gluten-free products every day.
Luckily, Gator Dining Services (GDS) has made some changes this year to the food products offered on campus and in the dining halls in an effort to accommodate students with food allergies.
“We do offer gluten-free items in the residential dining halls,” said Marketing Program Manager for Gator Dining Services Jill Rodriguez. “We have bread, pizza dough and pasta noodles that are gluten-free and available upon request.”
“We are able to offer many items in our convenience stores that are gluten-free, including pizza dough, frozen and microwaveable meals, brownies, cookies, muffins, tortillas and breads,” said Rodriquez. “We have a vendor that offers gluten-free items, and we asked them to provide a full inventory of products as well as their top 25 items.”
These items in the convenience stores on campus are in coolers that carry alternative dietary options, and they are labeled as gluten-free.
Inspiration for these changes came from families at Preview who inquired about gluten-free food options for their students, and the changes seem to be well-received by students on campus.
“We have seen increased participation of some of the gluten-free items in the convenience store,” said Rodriguez. “There have been only few requests for these options in the dining halls.”
Freshman Meaghan Renkey was diagnosed with Celiac disease at age four. The disease completely changed the way her family eats and what food they buy at the grocery store. Adjusting to college life with special dietary needs has been a challenge for her, but GDS has made it possible for Renkey to find gluten-free food options on campus.
“I have a meal plan because we talked to Gator Dining Services during Preview and they said they offered gluten-free dishes in the dining halls,” said Meaghan Renkey. “I am able to eat whatever dishes they already have made, or I can special request a dish, but that takes a little bit more time.”
Renkey appreciates the changes GDS has made, and hopes that there will one day be a few more items in each convenience store as well as a gluten-free section in the dining halls.
“Over-all, I think Gator Dining Services is helpful with accommodating food needs,” said Renkey.
Sophomore Emily Keeter did not know that she had Celiac disease until high school. Being diagnosed with the disease forced her to learn more about food, read the labels and ingredients in products and be more aware of what she puts in her body.
“Having Celiac disease makes you think about food a lot more,” said Emily Keeter. “You either have to pack your own food or starve, and I eat at my sorority house, so I have to bring my own gluten-free food items there and leave them in the pantry.”
Keeter was excited to learn about the new changes that GDS has made this year to accommodate students like her.
“I think the changes are on track with the rest of the country because accommodating food allergies is pretty big on the west coast, so I think it’s great that Gator Dining Services is doing this now,” said Keeter.
GDS is currently looking to update Graham Oasis and Beaty Market for fall 2011. But for right now, Jill Rodriguez says that Gator Dining Services hopes that they are “meeting the needs of students who have specific dietary needs.”