A celiac’s (un)delight

Quinnipiac’s lack of gluten-free options hurts those who don’t have a choice

Seth Fromowitz, Staff Writer

For the past 10 years, I’ve been living a gluten-free lifestyle. Not by choice, but because of a celiac diagnosis that changed how I viewed food and what I put into my body. 

Because of my diagnosis, I found myself two years behind in growth compared to my twin brother. I am not the only one who deals with this condition. One in every 133 Americans has celiac disease. That’s over 2 million people, and even more have not been diagnosed, according to Beyond Celiac.

Coming into Quinnipiac University, tour guides told me the school had many options for someone unable to eat gluten items and that I could easily be accommodated. They said I was able to open up the Transact Mobile Ordering app and pick gluten-free on just about every meal item that was offered, and there was even a station for gluten-free food and for all other allergies. It seemed that I wouldn’t have to worry about anything in regard to food. 

Now that my first year here is winding down, I know that’s not entirely true. My family and I joke about how grateful I am to have a kitchen next year so that I wouldn’t have to depend on Chartwells and the dining hall. 

Inside the dining hall on the Mount Carmel campus, there’s a fridge specifically for gluten-free foods that are ready to eat. Looking at the fridge, it’s what you expect to see: only Udi’s products and some other brands that pride themselves on organic and fresh products. Gluten-free products may be limited compared to others, but the repetition and lack of variety do not cut it. With prices higher than other items, people like myself who cannot eat a normal muffin or bagel are being taken advantage of. 

When people cannot eat gluten, cross-contamination of gluten-filled and gluten-free products becomes a real possibility that can have damaging results. While it does not impact most people if items share the same fryer or they use same utensils, there is still a crowd that can be impacted by the cross-contamination. There have been moments at Quinnipiac that the cross-contamination has done harm to people, myself included.

For those who are highly sensitive to cross-contamination, getting a quesadilla might not be your best move. The lone time I ordered one made me decide not to get one again. 

I asked for a gluten-free tortilla, only to watch as an unmarked bag was taken out, unsure if it even was gluten-free. It was then placed on the conveyor belt that all other tortillas were cooked on, while the flour tortilla before mine was still at the end of the belt. As my quesadilla rolled to the end of the conveyor belt, the tortilla in front was still not removed. Because of this, the quesadillas not only touched but were on top of one another causing cross-contamination. Once they were finally removed, they were cut by the same knife.

Cross-contamination is not the only concern for gluten-free people. There have been several moments in my time at Quinnipiac when my order was not only incorrect but would have caused me a reaction had I not realized it before eating. 

The first instance was being given regular bread rather than gluten-free on a sandwich I had ordered on the Transact app. Afterward, I reached out to the appropriate personnel within campus dining and was told that I would be given either a refund or a meal courtesy of Quinnipiac. While I was appreciative that it looked to satisfy its customer, its solution did not solve the problem.

Several other moments have occurred where I was given gluten-filled bread when it was clear that I had ordered the gluten-free option. But that does not top the instance where not only was I given gluten-filled bread, but the rest of my meal was missing.

When it comes to the options that come from the gluten-free refrigerator, what is being offered isn’t enough. Many times I have found the fridge, already with limited options, to be nearly empty: a bagel, a blueberry muffin and a cookie. Sometimes there are options with vegan wraps and pasta with prices slightly higher than gluten-filled options.

The purpose of this article isn’t to call for heads but to address the problems gluten-free students face at Quinnipiac. After reaching out to Quinnipiac Dining, I was immediately told that all managers took an allergy training of some sort. 

The quick response meant a lot. It showed that the people at the top care about the work they do and the people who eat their food. I was even given an opportunity to look at Cafe Q with its chef to see how the operation ran. 

While management looked to solve any problems that came to its desk within minutes, the urgency appears to be ignored when it came to what I had been served. I feel that as a way to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination and even the mistake of being given something that a student like myself cannot eat, there should be an individual allergy station, not just a lone half-stocked fridge.

It hurts that I have to wonder if the next meal I am served is one that I can eat. My reaction to gluten isn’t one that can place me in the hospital, but for others, intolerances and allergies to food can be a matter of life and death.