Gluten-free options lacking on campusBy Stephen N. Dethrage | 04/14/2011 8:39pm
Not all incoming freshman are thrilled when they must purchase a meal plan from the University, but Melissa Clem, a senior majoring in nutrition, said for some freshmen, the money they spend on those meal plans is wasted.
However, Clem's complaint is not about the commonly decried issues of overcrowding or the lack of meals that roll over from year to year. Instead, Clem said she takes issue with Bama Dining and the University because of the lack of food options that are free of gluten, a protein in foods processed from wheat and similar grains.
Clem is a victim of celiac disease, which damages the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy, including gluten, which is found in almost all conventionally cooked foods.
Clem, who founded the University of Alabama for Gluten-Free Living in February, said the University doesn't do enough for students who can’t digest gluten.
“It’s especially unfair for freshmen,” Clem said. “They have to buy the dining program, because they are forced to buy a large meal plan and Dining Dollars, with no gluten-free options available for them, and it all goes to waste.”
On the other hand, University Director of Media Relations Cathy Andreen said some gluten-free options exist on campus.
“Currently, Bryant is the only dining hall that offers gluten-free meals,” Andreen said. “However, Bama Dining will work with any student who has celiac disease to help them meet their dietary needs.”
Clem said she thinks it’s great that Bryant Hall shows an effort to accommodate students with dietary needs.
“They are helping raise awareness by supporting students living gluten-free, and showing other students what a gluten-free diet can look like,” she said. “It's really refreshing.”
Clem said she has only recently become aware of the gluten-free menu at Bryant Hall, and the University should partner with organizations like hers to raise awareness of the dietary needs of students and any options they offer to meet those needs.
“I want people to know that celiac disease is very serious and can be life-threatening if left untreated or undiagnosed,” she said. “The gluten-free diet has to be strictly followed. We need everybody’s support and involvement.”