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Friday, December 3, 2021

Opinion

UH provides plentiful options for all students, including those with celiac disease


The Fresh Foods Company dining hall inside Moody Towers is just one of the many locations at UH that offer gluten-free dining options for hungry UH students.  Gluten-free meals are available at Moody from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday. | Photo courtesy of Bridget Sanchez/The Daily Cougar

The Fresh Food Company dining hall at Moody Towers is just one of the many locations at UH that offer gluten-free dining options for hungry UH students. Gluten-free meals are available at Moody from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. | Photo courtesy of Bridget Sanchez/The Daily Cougar

Food is one of the biggest distractions there is when it comes to concentrating in class. This is especially true for those late morning or early afternoon classes when you’re craving a hot meal or even a sandwich to keep focused for the rest of the day.

Luckily, UH provides more than enough options to stop your stomach growling and get you back to the task of learning and studying. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy for all UH students to satisfy their hunger, specifically those students who are gluten-intolerant or have celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine, which causes inflammation and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. One in every 133 Americans have celiac disease, and 83 percent of those Americans are either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, according to celiaccentral.org.

With more than 40,000 students in attendance at UH, that equates to approximately 300 students who are affected by this disease and must alter their eating habits.

Gluten may not be something that the average student has heard of, but it’s something they eat every day regardless. It is a protein composite found in all products made from wheat, rye, barley, oats and a few other less well-known grains.

This means someone with celiac disease cannot eat a simple sandwich for lunch without damaging their health, unless it’s specifically gluten-free. The ice-cold alcoholic beverage we all love to drink before watching the Coogs play football on Saturday afternoons is another thing students with celiac disease cannot drink without damaging their health, unless it’s a specifically gluten-free drink.

So as you can see, it’s quite the challenge to live a gluten-free lifestyle, whether that be at home, in the dorm or on campus. Thankfully, UH has already done plenty to accommodate the lifestyle of students that have been diagnosed with celiac disease and other students who require special dining options.

UH Dining Services opened a gluten-free station at the Fresh Food Company in October 2012. The gluten-free station serves lunch Monday through Friday and dinner Sunday through Thursday,  providing plenty of opportunity for students in need of gluten-free food to fill up their stomachs so that they can re-focus for their classes or study in the library.

The University has provided further options for gluten-free students through the Bare Bowls Kitchen food truck, Tandoori Nite in the UC Satellite, and even Einstein Bros. Bagels, which offers a gluten-free bagel available to snack on in between classes.

Cross-contamination is one of the biggest risks that comes with having gluten-free food in the same vicinity as food with gluten. It is a challenge for many households and restaurants, and naturally it is hard for UH as well, but the University has taken steps to prevent this.

“Of course, there are risks of cross-contamination,” said UH Dining Services dietician Caroline Sullivan. “While we can’t 100 percent guarantee the prevention of cross-contamination at the station, we are taking a number of steps to ensure our food is as safe as possible.”

Those steps have included hiring two thoroughly trained and dedicated employees who will be the cooks every day for the station, as well as offering a selection of gluten-free bread that comes pre-sealed in a plastic wrapper and will remain sealed until the customer receives it.

It is encouraging to see that UH is doing everything it can to look after its students, no matter how big or small the number is for people affected by celiac disease. It shows that every student matters and no need is too small for our university to attend to. UH can now boast that it can support students with any dietary need, whether it be vegetarians, vegans, or people affected by celiac disease.

Opinion columnist Euan Leith is a journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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