:: How to survive on campus gluten free.

College is one of the first times that many GF young adults will be on their own to provide themselves with safe food.  At the same time, living in a dorm and having a college meal plan, which provides all of your meals, can be challenging.

I recently took a college road trip with my 17 year old GF Teen and visited seven colleges in California. On every single campus tour, the ability to accommodate the GF diet was voluntarily mentioned by the tour guides.  I also did some independent research and found that most of the colleges had some dedicated GF foods and/or a dedicated GF pantry where students could purchase premade GF food.

We are one year away from college, in the meantime thanks to Colleen O’Sullivan of Gluten Free Survival Guide for College Students for the following tips.

Tips on making your campus GF Friendly!

Is your campus GF friendly! Yes, you say? Consider yourself very lucky! For everyone else, it’s not too late to start!

 Here is a simple to-do list to start off with:

1) Find other students that are GF- faculty members count too!

2) Host a meeting with everyone to discuss what you want to come out of this new journey. 

3) Go to the dining halls and cafeteria and record everything that is GF friendly (some schools may have their menus online).

4) With everything you just recorded, see if you can create a full, complete menu for 5 days.

5) Look for the areas where you are missing important components to a normal diet (protein, whole grains, etc.) …all categories are essential- breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and dessert.

6) Make an appointment for a few of your group members to meet with the director of the dining halls to discuss the possibility of adding GF products.

7) It will benefit you if you have a list of names of students who are GF to better represent you.

8) Remind them that these students are paying the same price for their meal plan and it is not fair if they can’t eat as much of a variety as everyone else.

9) If everything works out, consider starting a new club on campus to promote Celiac awareness and recruit more students.... free samples is always a great way to start!

Dorm Room Duty

Being able to eat safely in the dining hall is important but having your own space in your dorm room is essential too!

  • Make sure you talk with your roommate before school starts and give them a heads up about your diet.
  • Agree to have separate dishes and cooking utensils if you are very severe to avoid any cross contamination.
  • Designate your own spaces in your mini fridge using containers and organizers.
  • Instead of labeling everything gluten free- use different colors for containers, plates, bowls, silverware, etc. to help organize both sides.
  • Buy squeeze bottles of mayo, peanut butter, jelly, ketchup, mustard, dressings, etc. to avoid the use of needing a knife.
  • Get permission from your school's disabilities department or food service director to have a toaster, microwave and/or Panini press in your room to increase your meal and snack options.
  • Make and freeze portioned meals at home and bring them to school when you don't want to go to the dining hall- things like this will always come in handy.
  • Talk to your dining service managers to find other students who eat gluten free and maybe agree to dorm together during your freshman year to make things easier.

Always be open minded, anything and everything is possible!

How do the Colleges Stack Up?

Thanks to Colleen, and the Udi's Gluten Free, for putting together this list of the Top 10 Gluten Free Friendly colleges.

#1 - University of Notre Dame

Location: Notre Dame, Indiana

Size: 12,000 Students

Gluten free dining at Notre Dame is a piece of cake (gluten free cake of course!). Students have their own private dining area located within the main dining center where you can find everything you would ever need to eat gluten free. To gain access to this center, students first meet with the school’s registered dietitian to go over their personal needs and see what ND can do to accommodate them. Once they have access, their options are unlimited. Gluten free items are also available at all dining locations, convenience stores, and on-campus restaurants. In order to keep the students safe, all dining members are trained and understand the severity of food allergies. As a result everything is carefully labeled on recipes, ingredient containers, menus, and online databases.

#2 – Georgetown University

 Location: Washington, DC

Size: 16,000 Students

Fortunately for gluten free students, allergy safe eating is a high priority on Georgetown’s campus. Students have access to a gluten free designated station where they can find similar gluten free staples. Everything is labeled with a unique gluten free logo to ensure safety and to avoid cross contamination. Dining hall staff is trained repeatedly throughout each semester to understand dietary restrictions and how they can best accommodate each different food sensitivity. The registered dietitian on campus also works hand-in-hand with the Gluten-Free Foodies student organization to make sure students’ needs are being reached and ideas are being shared.

#3        Iowa State University

Location: Ames, Iowa

Size: 30,000 Students

Gluten free dining is available at all campus locations at Iowa State University in order to ensure that all students are receiving a proper diet. Dining staff is trained specifically to each dietary need and managers keep a close tab on all operations. Students have access to a designated area with its own refrigerator, freezer, dry storage, cooking utensils and small appliances. Besides the full service area, students are also able to request individually made meals or sign up for a gluten free meal schedule. ISU continues to work on creating an area for students with restricted diets to feel as unrestricted as possible when it comes to making dining choices.

#4        University of Arizona

Location: Tucson, Arizona

Size: 30,000 Students

Within the last several years, University of Arizona has continued to expand and improve their options for gluten free students on campus. When a student orders a gluten free meal, several steps are taken in order to ensure safety, including special colored gloves. The dining member serving the student will stay with them until their meal is completed to make sure no cross-contamination occurs. For the first time ever this year, an allergen fair was hosted on campus to help connect students with their campus dining staff members. Also, the UA Gluten Free Club is a very active student group both on campus and in the greater community.

 #5        Emory University

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Size: 14,000 Students

Emory’s dining staff truly enables gluten free students to feel comfortable at their home away from home. The staff stays in regular communication with all students with dietary restrictions and they are always looking for feedback on ways to improve their already great program. The gluten free station in the main dining hall is very inclusive, and includes hot meals, gluten free staples, and desserts. The staff has worked tirelessly to create as many naturally gluten free options as possible in the main dining area. For example, they ensure that everything on the salad bar and all salad dressing are gluten free. Also, the staff has been trained through the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s GREAT Kitchens Program.

 #6        University of Connecticut

Location: Storrs, Connecticut

Size: 30,000 Students

Thanks to dedicated staff members, gluten free students at University of Connecticut can have peace of mind during their on-campus dining experiences. There is always at least one gluten free meal option on the menu each day and students always have access to a gluten free designated area with several additional options. Menu items, ingredients, and food products are clearly labeled once they are brought in from off-campus areas to eliminate cross contamination issues.

 #7        Ithaca College

Location: Ithaca, New York

Size: 7,000 Students

Gluten free meals are available within all dining halls on campus at Ithaca College, as well as at all campus-wide events. Within the main dining hall, students can access a gluten free pantry, which contains several products and meals as well as small kitchen appliances and cooking utensils. Special labeling is used on all products to ensure safety and to give students the feeling of security. There is also a Food Allergy Awareness Club on campus to support all students with dietary restrictions.

 #8        Carleton College

Location: Northfield, Minnesota

Size: 2,000 Students

At Carleton College, the dining staff believes that a food allergy/intolerance should not be a burden, but a teachable moment for students and staff. Staff members truly value students’ input and regularly meet with them to help learn how to accommodate their needs. All gluten free students who dine on campus have the same options as non-GF students and are offered one naturally gluten free entrée at every meal along with dessert.  Staff is trained yearly to learn how to properly handle the food provided at the dedicated gluten free station in each dining hall.

#9        University of New Hampshire

Location: Durham, New Hampshire

Size: 15,000 Students

University of New Hampshire has created an environment that makes gluten free dining easy. Students can access gluten free products at all dining locations on campus where a large variety of products can be found. In order for students to ensure a meal is available to them on time so students can leisurely eat with their peers, they are asked to call in to the gluten free phone service or fill out an online request form. Students are simply asked when they plan on arriving and which gluten free menu option they prefer.

 #10      Clark University

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts

Size: 3,500 Students

Looking for a truly “home cooked” meal? Students at Clark University will be excited to know that every meal served in their campus dining hall is made from scratch and most recipes are modified to be gluten free. There is also a separate “My Zone” area for students to access gluten free pasta and pizza, as well as cooking utensils and small appliances.  Students can find several resources within the dining center for addition dining options off campus and shopping in town. The staff at Clark University has a training session every morning when new meals are on the menu to help practice safe allergy food handling.  Being gluten free is considered a social issue at Clark and not just an allergy – if some students cannot eat it and there is no gluten free alternative for substitution, then that meal is not offered to any student.