Gluten free not so freeing

Being “gluten free” is much easier said than done.

As a junior, I’m required to live on campus, meaning that I have a minimum of at least 12 meals in the cafeteria each week and never really know what that means I might be served that day.

The cafeteria isn’t very gluten free friendly if you ask me.

I have Celiac’s disease—which means I’m allergic to gluten. Wheat, oats, barley… the good stuff in all of the good food. All of the things that makes your food “yummy.”

Statistically one out of every 133 people have celiac, which means that here at JBU there are around 10 undergrad students who have celiac, have to eat in the cafeteria daily, and as a result, have to worry about what is in our food and what could possibly make us sick.

I know, it doesn’t seem like a big, significant number at all, but when you think about how serious it actually is, then you realize that sticking to a gluten free diet is super important.

I found out this summer that I was Celiac, and it has been nothing less than a life change. I am now “that girl” when I am at the store, having to look twice at things I use to be able to eat with no problem. I am now the one friend in the group that has to read menus for restaurants before we go anywhere and I now have to be super cautious before I eat anything.

I think that the biggest problem I’ve encountered is in the cafeteria. None of the food is labeled. I can stay away from the obvious things: bread, pasta, anything fried and cookies or cake, but the hard part is the things that I do not know about.

I am grateful for the efforts that the people in the cafeteria do go to in order to make sure that what they serve is safe for us who need it. The sandwich makers will change their gloves, I am able to ask questions about what is in most things and they can answer them, but there is always a level of uncertainty that I have to deal with.

What if that one dish is seasoned with something that has gluten in it?

What if that spoon touched something that I cannot eat?

It is something that I just have to take a chance on.

I think that the school should try to cope with students who have special dietary needs. Gluten is not the only issue here. There are peanut allergies and lactose allergies just to name a few.

We should be able to know what is going into our food each day. Even if that means that there is just a sign in front of the main dish with a warning for major allergies, and we should have the option to opt out of eating in the cafeteria when what is there could harm us even more.

If this were the case in our school’s cafeteria, I would feel a lot more at ease when I walk in, and I know I wouldn’t have to worry about getting sick just from eating there.