Gluten-Free-at-CollegeIn the last few days this has been on my mind. How do our kids handle it when they go away to college and have to be gluten free?  No Mom.  No Dad.  Now’s the time where the rubber meets the road and our kid has to make it happen!

I knew I had to write about this when I read two very opposite stories on Thursday:

  1. University of Wisconsin’s Badger Herald in Madison, Wisc. reported Thursday on how the school’s gluten-free options are improving because of the increase in gluten-free students.

    The school purchased a program to help food allergic students to figure out their food options.  The dining halls currently have gluten free pizza, pasta, desserts and gluten-free baked goods.

    Taking the gluten free needs a step further, the school is targeting restaurants and school functions: “It is important for students to know what resources they have and that they do have options on campus,” Barbara Kautz, UW faculty advisor for the Gluten-Free Badgers student organization, told the paper.

    The Herald also said when there is food at a UW-hosted event, the gluten free student should call ahead, “If food services are aware of a gluten allergy in advance, they will be sure to provide a gluten-free option,” Kautz told the Herald.

  2. Washburn Unversity’s Washburn Review out of Topeka, Kan. told a different story Thursday. The headline read Gluten-free students struggle for options.“The gluten-free options that the Union offers to students who have celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten are absolutely awful,” said Sara Escandon, a sophomore social work major told the Washburn Review.

    Right now they have gluten free bread, salad, pizza and french fries.The Review reported that students are charged extra when they exceed the limit of the type of meats and cheese allowed on a salad.  “I’m fed up paying extra all the time. I have a budget just the same as the next kid, but what costs him $5 costs me double and it’s not fair to discriminate against those of us who have a legitimate disease because it is ‘inconvenient,’” said Escandon. (I tried to reach the writer of the article to better understand if all students are being charged extra or just gluten free students.  I have not heard back at this time.)

    Students would also like to see their concerns addressed about cross contamination, as well as information on ingredient lists, more variety like pasta or tacos, and a schedule of when these foods are available. “[Food service workers] are trying to think of other things they can create to serve for our gluten-free students but I have no idea at this moment,” said Alicia Cady, a food service worker.

3 Things to Know about Managing Gluten Free at College


  • Have you brushed up on your Department of Justice research?  In December of 2012, the Department of Justice settled a lawsuit with Lesley University over the treatment of students who needed a gluten free diet. The news release from that event said the settlement would “ensure that students with celiac disease and other food allergies can fully and equally enjoy the university’s meal plan and food services in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”  Understand what happened in this case so when you approach schools you have this knowledge basis in your back pocket.


Scott Lissner, president of AHEAD (Association on Higher Education and Disability) and Ohio State University ADA Coordinator, told me in an interview last year, “Schools should do a lot of research and outreach with disability services on campus.  Disability resource folks are very interested in this decision. Dining services should be asking ‘does this change our current policies and practices'”.

  •  Talk with nutrition services about gluten free options and processes when exploring schools (or if you are currently enrolled).  See if you can do a gluten free test run or talk to a gluten free student if the school says it already has gluten free practices in place.
  • If you have or are currently having trouble getting safe gluten free foods and you haven’t had luck with the nutrition services department — then Lissner says it is time to see the disability/ADA coordinator for the college.  YOU may not consider celiac a disability…but you may need to in order to get your needs met.

Please feel free to offer feedback on what worked for your family!

Here are some additional resources:

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has a Toolkit that can help you prepare for college.  Download it here. has a list of reader-submitted reviews of colleges and their gluten-free accommodations. has a list from 2013 of 25 Notable Gluten Free Friendly Colleges’s College Food Service Survey On Gluten-Free Meal Plans


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