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Gluten-Free in College

College. It’s an exciting time in anyone’s life, but it can be a frustrating experience for students who need to follow a gluten-free diet.

Living on campus can mean you have limited access to food. Gluten-free options aren’t always available, and the dining hall staff may not know the best ways to keep students with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’) safe.

Going to college gluten-free is getting easier, but having the right tools, advice and inspiration can make a big difference. Beyond Celiac has gathered these resources to help you navigate the gluten-free life at college…and beyond. (And parents, there’s something for you, too.)

Browse through this section free resources, articles, guides, webinars and more:

Getting Gluten-Free Accommodations on Campus

In December 2012, a lawsuit filed against Lesley University set a precedent for college students living with celiac disease. Essentially, gluten-free students were being denied accommodations for their special diets and were unable to opt-out of the mandatory meal plan. The case was sent to the US Department of Justice, who ruled that Lesley University must make reasonable accommodations for students.

While this case is not a law that all colleges and universities must follow, it provides great guidelines for other schools to follow. Among other things, here’s what the Lesley University settlement agreement required:

  • Provide gluten-free and allergen-free food options in its dining hall food lines in addition to its standard meal options
  • Allow students with known allergies to pre-order allergen-free meals
  • Display notices concerning food allergies and identify foods containing specific allergens
  • Train food service and university staff about food allergy-related issues
  • Provide a dedicated space in its main dining hall to store and prepare gluten-free and allergen-free foods
  • Work to retain vendors that accept students’ prepaid meal cards that also offer food without allergens.

These agreements can serve as suggestions when you speak to a food service director or other authority on your campus.

Learn more about Gluten-Free Campus Accommodations 

Talking to Your School’s Foodservice Director

A great place to start is your school’s food service director. He or she is your best link to the gluten-free options that are currently available on campus and which options could be made available. By meeting, you’ll also get a sense of how well the dining services team understands gluten-free needs.

Some questions to consider asking your foodservice director include:

  • Where is the best place to go for gluten-free food?
  • Do any of the dining halls have a gluten-free section for students?
  • Are there other students eating gluten-free on campus?
  • Are you able to share the ingredients of dishes served so I can ensure they are gluten-free?
  • Do the kitchens have a dedicated section for gluten-free food preparation?
  • How else do you prevent cross-contact in your kitchen?
  • Do you use any symbols to indicate which dishes are gluten-free or can be made gluten-free?

Once you’re in the dining hall, here are some questions to ask the staff. Tell them that you have a medical condition that requires you to eat gluten-free food, so they’ll take your concerns seriously.

  • Do you mind changing your gloves before you prepare my gluten-free sandwich?
  • Can you place my burger on a piece of aluminum foil before you put it on the grill top? I know you toast the buns on the grill, so this way my food will be protected.
  • This sauce looks great – Can you tell me the ingredients in it?
  • Do you know if these French fries were cooked with the onion rings or chicken fingers?
  • It looks like some pasta fell into the brown rice. Would you be able to serve me a spoonful of rice from a fresh batch?

Simply fill out the form below for instant access to the Gluten-Free College Student Toolkit:

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