Tufts Dining expands gluten-free options
Students with gluten intolerance benefit from changes
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 01:09
Tufts Dining Services’ record of attentiveness to students’ needs — responding to comments posted in Carmichael and Dewick-MacPhie Dining Halls, updating facilities for convenience and consciously accommodating those with special diets — now applies to the many Jumbos who combat severe food allergies.
Last fall, the installation of a refrigerator and freezer unit in Dewick aimed to benefit students who are diagnosed with food allergies, who are lactose intolerant and who adhere to a gluten-free diet, according to Tufts Nutrition Marketing Specialist Julie Lampie.
“There’s been a rise in the number of students with food allergies, especially those who need gluten-free diets,” Lampie said.
One of the most common diseases that these students are diagnosed with is celiac disease, a genetic, autoimmune disorder characterized by an inability to absorb certain types of nutrients, causing gastrointestinal discomfort — such as cramps and diarrhea — and weakened bones upon consumption of products containing gluten, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Those living with celiac disease must restrict their intake of foods like pasta, cookies, pizza crust and most other foods that are made with barley, wheat or rye — including beer. There is currently no cure for the disease, the diagnosis and treatment of which is fairly recent, Lampie said.
In the past, gluten-free products and some foods were placed “behind the line,” meaning held by kitchen staff until requested by students in order maintain an adequate supply, according to Lampie. Most other foods available in both Dewick and Carmichael specify whether they contain ingredients that some students may be unable to consume.
But a drastic increase in students diagnosed with celiac meant a corresponding increase in demand for gluten-free products in the dining halls. Lampie said that 10 to 12 new Tufts students consult with her each year. In response, Lampie arranged for Dining Services to have refrigerators installed, first in Dewick as a trial run and then, following a positive response, a year later in Carmichael.
“The fridge has been very helpful,” freshman Sarah Taxman said. “Before, I had to take supplements with my meals, but now I have my own types of gluten-free [foods]. It’s also nice for lunch, for example, when I want to make a sandwich and there are gluten-free breads for that, bagels and English muffins [too].”
Sophomore Lesya Horyn echoed Taxman’s appreciation of the improved accommodations.
“The fridge opens up more options and allows me to have greater variety,” she said.
Entry to the refrigerators requires a key, which students can only obtain after several meetings with Lampie in order to prove their special dietary needs. Lampie then reviews each student on a case-by-case basis to determine whether they truly require access to the contents of the fridge, other wise, she said, there will be insufficient gluten-free products and lactose-free milk for students who need it.
“We needed a lock because the items were so popular,” Lampie said, referring to students not diagnosed with celiac who opt for the gluten-free products. “If we don’t lock it, everything [inside] would be all gone.”
In an effort to prove that special dietary products are not necessarily inferior to the original varieties that they substitute, Lampie has made it a point to outsource production of better-tasting foods.
Last week, she met with Dawn Clancy, the chef-turned-entrepreneur and owner of the Somerville-based gluten-free bakery Curtis Street Bakers. In addition to over 10 cafes and bakeries in the Greater Boston area, the gluten-free bakery now provides Tufts’ dining halls with new items that may be of interest to students.
“She now custom-bakes for us,” Lampie said. “And Tufts students love their pastries.”
These products are especially targeted to students with tree-nut allergies, she said, who are welcome to consult with her should they need access to the fridge, which stocks some of the bakery’s most popular items.
Lampie is not alone in her assessment, as Horyn swears by their products.
“The company’s delicious rolls, cookies and brownies are some of the best I’ve ever had,” she said.
The new food items in the dining halls encouraged Taxman to regularly consume foods that she had previously ignored in her hometown of Chicago.
“I just avoid gluten and tend not to eat even the substitutions,” Taxman said. “At home I eat a variety of meats, veggies, fruits and rice which are great, but here, it’s sometimes hard to find that variety.”