Eating Gluten Free on Meal Plan at Appalachian State University,
April 27, 2014
Before coming to Appalachian State University, I emailed Food Services to check and see if they would accommodate my gluten free dietary needs. The dietician on campus was happy to email me a list of all the gluten free foods in all the dining locations, and it proved to be a variety filled list. However, once I moved in and was required to purchase a meal plan, I realized there was not much I could eat. The foods that had been listed as gluten free on the spreadsheet were either touching other glutenous foods or even in the same pan as fried chicken...etc. The croutons were in the back of the salad bar and found their way into most of the veggies and cheeses. The salmon, burgers, fries, stir-fried veggies, tempeh, soups, chicken w/ seasoning, and mashed potatoes (but under fried chicken and full of crumbs) are all things that should or could be made gluten free, yet they are not. Also, the burrito stand, which serves rice and beans, is finnicky about handing out extra rice...it's rice for crying out loud and I can't eat the burrito. I especially get frustrated with not getting more that a mere handful of rice on my "burrito without a wrap" when they are charging me upwards of $7 for it and sometimes upcharging for an extra scoop of rice... Also, getting chicken alone without a burrito, possibly 7 small chunks cut burrito style in a small bowl, cost me $6... How does that equal the price of a full chicken breast? There not only needs to be changes made to the gluten free options offered in the cafeteria, but the way it is rung up at the registers too. People are unfamiliar with people not getting the burger without the bun, or chicken without the burrito and they are charging way more for things that should be discounted because I am getting less. The dining hall upcharges $1 or more for adding a second corn tortilla to a burrito...1. I can buy 100 corn tortillas for close to that amount and 2. The flour tortillas cost more and actually close around the stuff inside...why does it cost more to make a quesadilla, since no one eats open faced corn tortillas that are not toasted...it just doesn't make sense. When I ask if things are gluten free, some staff are eager to help and find out, but others glare at me for making their job harder, and sometimes people just assume it's a diet fad and guesstimate that things are gluten free, when I can tell they are not, and they act like there is nothing they can do to find out because the line of students behind me is more important than making sure I find something to eat. In my Nutrition class at the school, we did a lifestyle analysis project and evaluated everything we ate and all of our physical activity for a few days. I am highly active and was used to eating a healthy, well balanced diet before moving to college. I had noticed I was dropping weight after moving to Appalachian State, but was eating as much, of what I was able to, as I could tolerate. (I can only handle so much salad before my mouth feels raw.) In the conclusion of my lifestyle analysis project, it showed I was 2,225 calories short of my energy needs daily. I took this information to Food Services, and was told that adequate gluten free options were available, yet did not get the impression that the lady I met with took me seriously. She simply walked me around during prime lunch hour and pointed at all the gluten free things. Turned out, it was an exemplary day/very out of the ordinary, because there was a good variety of things I could eat that usually were not available. Then I asked about maybe getting more gluten free options in the market and she told me that she could get one or two things but that I would have to guarantee that I would buy them so that they would not go to waste or expire before they got bought. I promised, but saw no changes in the market offerings. I actually had a good laugh when I walked into the market the next semester and saw a ton of new Gluten Free cards placed around on the shelves. At first, I was really excited and started picking things up to purchase. But upon reading the ingredients, 9 out of 10 of the gluten free labeled items contained either wheat, oat, rye, or barley, and the funny thing is that most of them included the CONTAINS: WHEAT section on the label, clear as day. This is a direct indication that Appalachian State could greatly benefit from a gluten free education program. I know I can't be the only one frustrated that I am locked into a meal plan that is sucking up all the money I could be using to buy my own groceries, but yet I have to deal with less than adequate calories, poor variety, and a plethora of cross-contamination. This is the first step in initiating change. I may have been a bit harsh in this review, but all I have stated is my personal experience, or as it should be called: my personal struggle. But overall, Appalachian State is a great place to be. I just think the Food services should take advantage of being located in such a local food community and they should start buying foods and seasonings and sauces with ingredients we can pronounce, they should educated their staff on gluten, they should make sure gluten free items are not mixed with glutenous items (which is most times just for looks/presentation), and they should maybe consider that if they are unable or unwilling to make these neccessary changes, that refunding meal plan money to those who cannot eat the food they are paying for, is the right thing to do. I wish I had the opportunity to fight harder for this my freshman year, but I am determined to change this unfortunate glutenous reality for those gluten intolerant people that will come after me.