Bruff creates regional campus dietitian position to help gluten-free students

Emily Fornof, Contributing Reporter

For more than three fourths of all gluten free college students nationwide, the dining hall experience is one of inconvenience and overall dissatisfaction.

According to a 2016 study conducted by the New England Celiac Organization, 78 percent of gluten-free students report discontent with their dining services at some point. Due to such dissatisfaction, Tulane’s Sodexo has created the new role of regional campus dietitian to address these problems.

Kelsey Rosenbaum, the newly appointed regional campus dietitian, works with the chefs and dietary supervisors to ensure that all is prepared for the students.

“We are kind of looking at some different options and we want to make sure our entire staff is up to date on their allergy training, and just really working to make sure students feel comfortable,” Rosenbaum said.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is a common ingredient in everyday foods like pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more. The excess of gluten in everyday life requires dining areas to make extra efforts in terms of funding and preparation in order to accommodate gluten-free students.

According to NECO advisor Lee Levitt, students in college with gluten allergies or disorders, like celiac disease, have to be prepared when planning on eating at the dining hall. Levitt suggested talking to the school about creating a special meal plan and learning how to ask questions to advocate for themselves with the cooking staff.

“I have to ask which is kind of embarrassing sometimes, because I don’t want everyone behind me in line to know that I’m gluten-free,” freshman Hannah Kramer said. “Sometimes I get weird looks … people think that I’m gluten-free because it’s ‘trendy’, so they judge me for that.”

Sodexo Marketing Specialist Jose Fuentes said the daily interactions about diet as one of the major sources of social issues for students.

“A lot of people might feel either ashamed… because of their condition, whatever it could be, they don’t want to come out and say it,” Fuentes said. “What we really want to establish is for them to have this freedom to come and talk about it.”

Levitt also said that if students prefer to get their own food that better accompanies their diet, they can run into issues that lead them into relying on snack foods for their nutrition.

“One, the student has to be able to get to the store off campus that would have a decent selection of gluten-free food,” Levitt said. “Two, they have to be able to have a place to store it… If there is a communal refrigerator that they could use in the dorm, then you worry about other people eating the food and cross-contamination. And a place to cook it: there aren’t many self serve kitchens, utensils, and cookware in dormitories.”

For some of those looking to eat gluten-free, options are available in one of the most popular lines at Bruff. The line right off of the stairs into Bruff called “peak performance” serves gluten-free options of vegetables, non-gluten grains, and grass-fed meat.

While this line is accommodating to some, many with gluten allergies or disorders must go further to secure a safe diet. Their food is cooked in separate facilities in order to prevent cross-contamination, then sealed and put in the gluten-free refrigerator behind the peak performance line.

“Tulane has definitely provided its gluten-free students with gluten-free options at all meals,” freshman Colette McGarvey said. “So far, every time I have been to Bruff, there is a main meal I have been able to eat, whether that is chicken or vegetables or hamburgers without the roll. I also really appreciate Tulane’s effort in categorizing foods by always posting the foods being served and indicating whether the foods contain gluten.” 

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