Kent State University’s first gluten free dining hall

KENT, OH — A campus dining hall is trying to reach out to students with food allergies starting this year by only offering gluten free options.

“It was cleaning from floor to ceiling. From equipment to walls, floors, baseboards, inside cooler units, moving any products that we had with gluten remaining out of the facility,” says Marlene Maneage, Prentice Café manager. Prentice Café, located in Prentice Hall at Kent State University, became the first entirely gluten-free dining hall on a campus in the United States. The café received their Gluten-Free Food Service Certification (GFFS) over summer 2016. Completed by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), the process focuses on preventing food safety hazards and contamination, as well as production of gluten-free foods, worker hygiene and storage area sanitation.

Prentice Café unveiled their new options at the start of the Fall 2016 semester. They still offer many student favorites, such as pizza and burritos, the only exception being gluten. According to Kent State University dietician, Megan Brzuski, Prentice Café was chosen because it’s located centrally on campus.

“If I eat anything that’s even been touched to gluten, I get a really bad stomach ache for like, a couple days. Some people have it a lot worse off. Some people get really, like, violently sick if they come in contact with it, but I get stomach pains for a few days,” says Amanda Klein, a Kent State University student affected by Celiac’s Disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. When people with the allergy consume gluten, the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine. This condition is called Celiac’s Disease, which affects one in 100 people worldwide.

For people with Celiac’s Disease, gluten consumption causes nutrients to not be absorbed into the body. The only known solution is to abstain from anything containing gluten. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, long-term health conditions of Celiac’s Disease without a gluten free diet include anemia, infertility, miscarriage, lactose intolerance and early onset osteoporosis.

“Products coming into the building, we need to make sure are in fact gluten free. We have to verify each item as it comes in the door,” Maneage says. The university advises students to not bring outside food or drink into Prentice Café, to prevent contamination. This also extends to products coming into the vicinity from outside vendors. This ensures all students affected by Celiac’s Disease to be confident and comfortable with their dining options.

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