Are gluten-free dining halls feeding potential eating disorders?

MANSFIELD, Conn.—A gluten-free diet is the best remedy for combating the ills of celiac disease, but a growing number of people are cutting out the protein as an excuse to just plain diet. And with many campus dining halls taking measures to cater to a small percentage of on-campus celiac sufferers — and a larger number of gluten-free dieters — some colleges may also be inadvertently feeding the fire of potential eating disorders.

Robert Landolphi, culinary development manager at University of Connecticut, estimates that about 20% of the 12,500 recipes served on campus are gluten-free. Each of the nine dining halls also has an isolated galley with pantries and freezers stocked with gluten-free versions of dishes being served. There are even designated toasters to prevent cross-contamination. UConn also offers gluten-free menus in campus restaurants and an entire wing of the on-campus convenience store is gluten-free.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), only about 1% of the population has celiac disease, or 1 in 133 people. At a college the size of  UConn, with a 22,500 undergraduate population, that translates to about 225 people on campus —indicating that the school’s cafeterias are serving more than just the celiac suffers.

UConn does not require medical documentation from students eating the gluten-free products nor track how many students are eating gluten-free meals. Some schools like Tufts University, however, require special keys for medically documented students to access the gluten-free selections. Harvard University pairs individual students with nutritionists to go over what is safe and unsafe for students to eat in the cafeterias and can even submit special orders. UConn also provides this option.

UConn attempts to mainstream their gluten-free choices to provide students with a level of comfort, says Dennis Pierce, executive director of Dining Services at UConn. “Social dining as a community is a big part of going to college,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to wear this sign that says ‘I eat different.’ So having students go through a screening process is a step individuals shouldn’t have to take.”

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
staff pack

To keep staff motivated, we locked them in a room together. As part of a midsemester training session, we formed work groups and sent them to a local Escape Room to see which team could play the game together most effectively and escape first. Not only was this training a great team-building experience, but it supported a local new business and gave our staff a memorable experience.

Ideas and Innovation
star employee

Senior leadership meets twice a year to do organizational talent planning for every position from the top down. We talk about who are the potential high-performers, and go through how they can grow. People are your differentiator—you need to take care of your assets, and your assets are your human resources.

Industry News & Opinion

Students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will be served student-grown produce from the campus farm at dining halls this fall, M Live reports.

The dining team received its first batch of produce from UM’s on-campus farm in June, after students received the proper USDA certification to grow, harvest and deliver food to campus dining halls. In order to figure out what produce is needed, students communicate with the dining department weekly, and Michigan Dining purchases items accordingly.

"The students are involved from seed to plate," Executive Chef Frank Turchan...

Sponsored Content
college students eating

From Ovention.

Today’s colleges and universities know they should offer more than a large selection of breakfast cereals in the morning and chicken tenders at lunch to appeal to students. When it comes to what’s trending on campuses, here’s a look at what directors can tune into to boost engagement.

1. Expanded dining hours

Late-night options have long been a popular fixture on college campuses, but if it’s too late, students often choose to venture to off-campus retailers to satisfy their cravings. According to Technomic’s 2017 College & University Consumer Trend...

FSD Resources