Guest post by: Wendy Gregory Kaho
Both of my children were diagnosed with celiac disease in their early teens. Whether it was school lunch, traveling with a sports team or on vacations, we thought we had mastered living gluten free. When it came time to choose a college for each of them, we let them decide on the school based on the offerings and atmosphere and then examined the availability of gluten-free choices in the dining halls. Both kids felt they wanted the on-campus living option and activities of dorm life.
We asked all the right questions that were supplied on celiac disease support sites, but despite this and the good reputations in the food service world of both dining services, we found a wide variation in knowledge and in serving gluten-free meals in both colleges.
As I blogged about our experiences and the troubles we were having and wrote about the struggle on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness site, I began hearing from parents all over the country who were either delighted by college efforts or disappointed and frustrated like we were. The larger universities with a larger population of gluten-free staff and students were implementing gluten-free programs in dining halls and on-campus facilities, but the smaller schools seemed to struggle to learn what is truly gluten-free and how to meet the needs of gluten-free students.
After the positive response to the college articles I wrote and hearing more from the growing numbers of teens and young adults heading to college or diagnosed while at college, the NFCA partnered with gluten-free college bloggers to describe their lives and their needs in a series of posts and then in produced an online magazine for gluten-free college students with resources, recipes and articles for inspiration.
As diagnosis rates continue to climb, colleges need to be prepared for the growing numbers of gluten-free colleges. I encourage parents and teens to be proactive in helping their schools understand the dietary needs of incoming students just as my daughter has at her school and as the Udi’s Gf Ambassadors are doing on campuses across the country.
Join us on #CampusChat on Wednesday at 9PM EST on Twitter for more tips on college visits, college selection, and living gluten-free in college with guest, Wendy Gregory Kaho @midlife_celiac. Wendy has gathered gluten-free college bloggers, interns and staff with the Udi’s Gluten-Free College Ambassadors program, staff from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and representatives from some of the best gluten-free food companies to join us for #CampusChat.