When considering a college to attend, be sure to check the institution’s meal programs to see if they accommodate students on a gluten free diet. And you cannot rely 100% on their printed promotional literature or their video presentations because that media is not always accurate or up to date. We know of one reputable college that provided an elaborate audio/video presentation on their gluten free food service only to be forced to disavow it AFTER the student committed, with no out to decommit.
It’s another step in the long, involved but exciting process of selecting a college. If you plan to visit for a first hand look, be sure to ask for meetings with the people who are responsible for Dining Services, Health Services, Residential life and even the office of Disability Services, because Celiac Disease can fall under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It might be a stretch, but worth the effort because qualifying could entitle you to a larger room into which you can move more kitchen-type equipment than what would normally be allowed. If you cannot visit first hand, then you must carefully and thoroughly research this information, and be absolutely comfortable with the answers before you commit.
If your college of choice cannot provide you with adequate gluten free café dining services, and you still want to attend, you’ll have to plan on preparing your daily snacks and meals in your dorm room. This can prove to be easier said than done because you cannot lock up your toaster, fry pans, micro, mini-fridge and everything you’ll need to prepare and serve meals. Your roommate(s) may find it somewhat selfish of you to exclude them from the use of your items but doing so will cause cross-contamination problems. Not only that but let’s face it, entering college with a demanding academic schedule is not an easy task to accomplish, and being on a gluten free diet and having to prepare your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks – which up to this point in time had been done at home – is not to be taken lightly.
An alternative to living on campus is, of course, living off campus if the college does not prohibit freshmen from doing so. If their policy is to restrict, then Section 504 might kick in so you’ll need to look into that option.
A perfect guide for the aspiring gluten free college-bound student can be found, free of charge on the internet. It is a 12- page guide packed with essential information about what you need to do and how you need to do it when looking at a college to attend. It discusses your “First Steps” then goes on to “Living on and off Campus” and then “New Friends.” But without a doubt, it is a must read. It is entitled “Navigating the Gluten Free Diet in College” by Rebecca Panzer, MA, RD, LD “in educational collaboration with the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center” which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Here is the website address: