By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
Gluten free/allergy free has taken on new meaning in college dining halls. On December 26, 2012, the Justice Department announced its agreement with Lesley University to ensure that students with celiac disease and food allergies can “fully and equally enjoy the university’s meal plan and food services in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”
A precedent has been set. The Justice Department has made a statement that it is no longer okay for colleges and universities to ignore the needs of students with food allergies and celiac disease. It’s not even enough to provide a few gluten-free/allergy-free options. The settlement requires that Lesley University take steps to prevent cross-contamination, display notices identifying specific allergens, train foodservice staff, develop individualized meal plans, and more.
The question every foodservice director should be asking is, “are we prepared to serve students with celiac disease and food allergies according to these guidelines?”
If the answer is no, do not fret. There are people, organizations and resources that can help. Consider the following:
- Implement an operation-wide foodservice training program, such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) and the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Food Allergy Training Guide for College and University Food Services
- Hire a consulting dietitian knowledgeable in celiac disease and food allergies to conduct a needs assessment, develop operational policies, and implement training
- Organize a task force of students with celiac disease and food allergies and meet with them regularly to understand their needs and seek their input regarding the foodservice program
Embrace this change, college foodservice teams! The improvement will make the dining hall a point of distinction on your college campus.
Rachel Begun, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She provides education, communications and consulting services to health organizations and the food industry. She also educates the public via speaking opportunities, online activities and writing for publications, including her own blog, The Gluten Free RD. You can connect with Rachel on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest via her website at www.rachelbegun.com.