Eric Walker

Equinox Staff


For an individual with Celiac Disease ingesting a piece of food that’s come in contact with a gluten-containing item (most breads and processed foods) can lead to excruciating stomach pains, violent vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms within the hour.

Keene State College’s Registered Dietitian Rebecca Briggs and Executive Chef Rich Ducharme hosted two information sessions in the Zorn Dining Commons on Feb. 4 to inform students with gluten-free diets on what the   DC has to offer, answer any questions, and address any concerns students may have had.

karina barriga albring / news ediitor Valley Vegan station at the dining commons is one of the locations that often offers KSC students gluten-free options for lunch and dinner.

karina barriga albring / news ediitor
Valley Vegan station at the dining commons is one of the locations that often offers KSC students gluten-free options for lunch and dinner.

Gluten-free diets have grown in popularity over the past few years with the increased awareness and diagnosis of Celiac Disease. Individuals with Celiac Disease experience intestinal mucosal inflammation and mucosal injury when they encounter the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, rye, and barley, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). Celiac Disease affects between .5 and 1 percent of the population, also stated by the NIH.

With the increased labeling of gluten-free foods on today’s store-shelves, many people have falsely equated the terminology with weight-loss and other health benefits. However, gluten-free diets have not been proven to be beneficial for those without Celiac Disease or a gluten intolerance.

Briggs noted gluten-free forms of foods that usually contain gluten, such as breads and pastas, tend to be calorically higher than their gluten-containing counterparts.

There are currently no effective medical treatments for Celiac Disease other than simply abstaining from gluten. The exact amount of gluten that one with the disease can safely consume is hard to say because the severity to which the degree affects people varies, and the regulations on “gluten-free” labeling differ from country to country.

In the United States the FDA requires foods with such a label to contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

Ducharme admitted there’s no way to guarantee the gluten-free options in the DC are 100 percent gluten free because of the fact that gluten can ambient and although they take all the proper precautions, it would be impossible to guarantee such, unless they created an entirely separate gluten-free dining establishment and separate the student with the intolerance.

Briggs said the dining staff spent the last few months furthering the expansion of their efforts to provide a variety of foods to students with gluten-free diets, as well as re-educating their employees on how to safely prepare and handle gluten-free foods.

During the informational session Ducharme encouraged students to form relationships with the staff to further improve their dining experience.

He spoke incredibly highly of the chefs and servers, and persisted that if the students make an effort to inform the staff of their needs, they will not be met with animosity, but rather people who genuinely want to help.

Ducharme said of the dining staff; “They’re receptive to you guys, they’re looking for you guys. If you ask them [about gluten-free foods], they would understand what you’re saying, every one of them.”

Briggs added, “They’re asking questions, they want to do this right.  They know it’s important; they know how crucial it is to you guys and you staying well.”

The DC first incorporated gluten-free options about five years ago, and now offer a gluten-free station, which includes a refrigerator and shelf housing only gluten-free foods, as well as non-gluten-contaminated appliances (toaster, toaster-oven, and microwave).

The gluten-free station also offers a daily hand-out on what gluten-free foods are available at the other serving stations. Gluten-free foods at the other locations (Elm City Eatery, Valley Vegan) are clearly labeled on the nutritional information signs that are placed beside all prepared dishes.

Students with gluten-free diets (or any dietary restrictions for that matter) need to self-disclose to the staff in order to be fully accommodated.

Briggs said the number of gluten-free students she’s currently aware of resides in the mid-20s, but doesn’t know how many of those have Celiac Disease, a gluten intolerance or just a gluten-free preference.

Many students without gluten-free diets may be unknowingly consuming gluten-free foods in the DC daily. For example, almost every salad dressing flavor has been converted to a gluten-free variety.

Gluten-free student Caylyn Bowser praised the recent improvements in the availability of prepared gluten-free foods alongside all the other options at the different stations.

“It’s so nice to actually be able to just go in line and get hot food just like everybody else and not have to be the person taking ten minutes just to get the food and then go find your friends. It’s just really helpful,” she said.


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