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    Jefferson Adams

    Hofstra Students Petition for Gluten-Free Dining Awareness

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Students at Hofstra University have turned to Change.org to petition school administrators for better food options for those with dietary restrictions.


    Caption: Image: CC--Tom Hannigan

    Celiac.com 04/17/2019 - Hundreds sign petition calling for dining reform at Hofstra. The petition stems from the experience of junior marketing major Sarah Peres, who has celiac disease. Peres began the petition after receiving a salad with wheat croutons on it. First, she was mildly upset, but then she turned toward action with her petition.

    Peres says that she is tired of feeling hungry and frustrated whenever she is in the dining halls at Hofstra, and that she hopes to make a change in campus' food policy.  “It is almost as if Hofstra would rather us starve than be able to eat a safely prepared gluten-free meal,” Peres said in her petition. 

    Her petition, titled “More gluten-free, allergy-free, and dietary restriction food options at Hofstra University,” exposed serious flaws in the dining hall policies. Her efforts have been met with support from more than 500 concerned students, parents and community members. Lisa Ospitale, the District Marketing Director of Campus Dining by Compass Group, said that available options are based on sales, sales history, and requests from the overall community population. 

    Basing food offerings on sales and demand is fine, but schools still have responsibilities under the ADA to offer options for students with food allergies and sensitivities. That means adequate training and policies to ensure student well-being.

    Speaking of the school’s current allergen-friendly dining area, Ospitale says that the school should “offer G8 in the Student Center, because it is an area that is separate from other areas creating a safe location for those with allergies to eat.”

    Peres feels that Hofstra still has a ways to go. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” she says. They need to have a second kitchen…They need to educate their staff more. If they don’t have a separate kitchen, then they need to clean their utensils and have separate utensils for everything,” Peres added.

    Stay tuned for more on this and other stories about gluten-free and allergen-free food options at colleges and universities. 

    What do you think? Do colleges and universities need to do more in general to accommodate students with food allergies? Share your thoughts below.

    Read more at The Hofstra Chronicle


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    I agree that the University needs to be aware of and enforce procedures that are required for students with Celiac Disease or other allergies but to expect them to have a separate kitchen is perhaps a little too demanding I think. My friend owns a catering company and she has color coded separate utensils to avoid confusion but there are still times mistakes are going to happen with she or her staff. Even with a separate kitchen mistakes of cross contamination can happen. It’s a real pain but my suggestion is to bring your own food everywhere in order to be safe when forced to eat out. 

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    Having read more articles about the university experience now, I am more aware that many universities have already added separate kitchens and dining rooms on their campuses. This is a move in the right direction and I love the “food court” idea where each separate station only concentrates on preparing one dish (preparing it well and in great quantities) so the gluten-free or the Kosher or Vegan ones are all non-contaminated as best as possible. 

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    2 hours ago, ronaboat said:

    It’s a real pain but my suggestion is to bring your own food everywhere in order to be safe when forced to eat out. 

    That's not an option here. We're talking about a residential setting, not "eating out." This is the equivalent of home for the students, and they don't have their "own food." 

    I have sympathy for campus food operators who get a steadily increasing number of requests for special diets. But this isn't just a diet fad ("I want paleo...Mediterranean...Martian!"). This is a bona fide medical necessity. That's not to say it's reasonable to expect every medical necessity to be handled by the campus cafeteria, but a GFD is not outlandishly rare or expensive, and reasonable accommodations seem, well, reasonable.

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    Thanks Elrond for your clarification. I’m Celiac and with 14 years of misdiagnosis my career was seriously disrupted and I just don’t trust others to be as vigilant as I always try to be. 

    Perhaps a residential setting is different in the US. I was always able to microwave, grill on a George Foreman grill or make sandwiches, eat fruit, veggies, nuts, salads etc in my dorm in the UK or ask the kitchen to “heat up” a frozen or prepackaged meal or soup for me. That way I never had to worry about cross contamination. 

    I totally agree that our condition warrants serious attention from the institutions but I also worry that the gluten-free “fad” has created a double edged sword. It has given us more choices on the one hand but not all of those are actually “Gluten Free” because of where they are manufactured and the possibility of cross-contamination.

    Also, the growing numbers of people choosing a gluten-free diet with no consequences can sometimes lead to less attention being paid by the food preparers to “getting it right”. This is just my observations being Gluten Free now for 17years.  

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    Posted

    8 hours ago, ronaboat said:

    Thanks Elrond for your clarification. I’m Celiac and with 14 years of misdiagnosis my career was seriously disrupted and I just don’t trust others to be as vigilant as I always try to be. 

    Perhaps a residential setting is different in the US. I was always able to microwave, grill on a George Foreman grill or make sandwiches, eat fruit, veggies, nuts, salads etc in my dorm in the UK or ask the kitchen to “heat up” a frozen or prepackaged meal or soup for me. That way I never had to worry about cross contamination. 

    I totally agree that our condition warrants serious attention from the institutions but I also worry that the gluten-free “fad” has created a double edged sword. It has given us more choices on the one hand but not all of those are actually “Gluten Free” because of where they are manufactured and the possibility of cross-contamination.

    Also, the growing numbers of people choosing a gluten-free diet with no consequences can sometimes lead to less attention being paid by the food preparers to “getting it right”. This is just my observations being Gluten Free now for 17years.  

    you assume that the student has access to a grocery store to purchase food.  Many US colleges are in rural/suburban settings and most students do not have cars, so unless there is a grocery store in walking distance or you can ask a friend with a car, there is NO access to groceries.

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    I agree, it is difficult and a University should take care of those under their care.  Students pay for their meals and should have safe options regardless of what type of dietary need they have.  Its difficult for anyone, I have been left sitting without food on several occasions at work.  Suring trainings, Staff meetings and luncheons.  I was at one breakfast meeting where I was being recognized for my work and could only eat some of the fruit (from an unopened tray, the others had been cross contaminated), their offerings were breakfast sandwiches, Pastries and the fruit tray.  During our Christmas party everything was glutinous except for one items, which I watched people put spoons that had been in the pasta into the chicken to retrieve it. 

    So I can relate and it really is not fair to go hungry.  I commend her for taking the initiative to start the petition and stand up for herself and all others in the same boat.

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    My 12-year-old was diagnosed with Celiac 18 months ago. When he goes off to college, part of the decision about where he goes will unfortunately depend on dining options (not something anyone should have to consider).

    There are several universities that do a great job of meeting allergen needs. My son is attending a camp at NC State University this summer and they have an electronic system in the dining halls where you basically check your food allergies and the screen shows what can be eaten from that meal’s menu. There is also a gluten-free “island” where there are dedicated toasters, utensils and a refrigerator stocked with dairy free milk and gluten-free breads. When I contacted the University, the Allergen Specialist responded to all of my questions and offered to walk my son through the dining hall and show him everything prior to camp. She also said that all staff are extensively trained on food allergies (including Celiac) and cross contamination. Here is a link:

    https://dining.ncsu.edu/location/fountain/

    I read about another university that has a dedicated stocked kitchen where students can even prepare their own food. Safe dining for a medical reason should be a given at all colleges and universities. It seems like at public universities, there would be some legal standing for students to demand safe food. In US secondary education, it is a legal right.

    I think the biggest problem is educating people about Celiac Disease. Clearly that needs to begin with the food service/safety industry- which is not being done very well in the US. 

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    I work on a campus that self contained like a college campus, it is in rural America and many individuals have government sponsored carpools and living arrangements. We are all accustomed to having to bring our own food items.  We used to have a cafeteria that was celiac/restrictive/allergy friendly, but the contract changed hands and that is not the case anymore.  I can not eat there, but it is the mindset that is behind it that is so frustrating to me. Those in the food industry that lack the interest for people who have the situations where dietary restriction is a must is crazy.  It is prevalent everywhere.  Not only do people not offer options to those that have the restrictions, but they simply do not care. I have a friend who cannot have beef, so she orders chicken.  She received steak instead of chicken so she brought it to their attention and the server actually told her "that is not beef, it is steak"! She is not the only one that I hear this from either. Then I hear on TV how those of us that have the issues to deal with on a 24 hour basis inconvenience those that do not. I mean....What??

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    On 4/23/2019 at 6:06 PM, Ariane said:

    My 12-year-old was diagnosed with Celiac 18 months ago. When he goes off to college, part of the decision about where he goes will unfortunately depend on dining options (not something anyone should have to consider).

    There are several universities that do a great job of meeting allergen needs. My son is attending a camp at NC State University this summer and they have an electronic system in the dining halls where you basically check your food allergies and the screen shows what can be eaten from that meal’s menu. There is also a gluten-free “island” where there are dedicated toasters, utensils and a refrigerator stocked with dairy free milk and gluten-free breads. When I contacted the University, the Allergen Specialist responded to all of my questions and offered to walk my son through the dining hall and show him everything prior to camp. She also said that all staff are extensively trained on food allergies (including Celiac) and cross contamination. Here is a link:

    https://dining.ncsu.edu/location/fountain/

    I read about another university that has a dedicated stocked kitchen where students can even prepare their own food. Safe dining for a medical reason should be a given at all colleges and universities. It seems like at public universities, there would be some legal standing for students to demand safe food. In US secondary education, it is a legal right.

    I think the biggest problem is educating people about Celiac Disease. Clearly that needs to begin with the food service/safety industry- which is not being done very well in the US. 

    This is so heart warming to hear about these universities’ initiatives. I had no idea and agree that so much work does need to be done to educate. Thanks for sharing. 

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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