On Sept. 23, there was a gluten free roundtable discussion organized by Director of Dining Services John Bragel.
In response to the needs of those who cannot consume gluten for medical reasons, the dining hall staff have been trying to find ways to improve and expand their gluten-free options.
Bragel routinely conducts roundtable sessions on different topics, such as gluten free, vegan and vegetarian dining as well as overall healthy eating.
His approach for every meeting is simple, as he tries to emphasize that the Dining Services staff needs help and feedback in order to understand each student’s individual needs.
“I always preface these discussions with the fact that I myself am not a gluten-free diner; we have systems in place … but many of the things implemented came from feedback [from students] in past [roundtable discussions],” Bragel said.
This particular roundtable revealed that there has been some expansion of the gluten-free menu; gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free teriyaki sauce are both new items this year.
The Dining Services staff also has many new options and accomodations. To avoid any cross contamination, a student can ask for a special meal made in a separate part of the open kitchen and wrapped in plastic wrap. There are also signs above foods that indicate gluten free items, and several different foods, such as gluten-free pizza, can be asked for on demand.
It was noted that, because Wheaton has an open kitchen, no food can be completely guaranteed as gluten-free.
For Riley Heist ’18, who becomes physically ill when she consumes gluten, it feels awkward asking for items on demand. She said, “if I talked a lot more I’d be able to navigate [the menu] better … I just hate making people go out of their way.”
Cournoyer had this message for students like Heist: “Don’t ever feel like you’re having someone do anything extra; that’s what [dining services] is here to do.”
Heist said that while the gluten-free options are not perfect, she knows that the school will work with her to cater to her needs, as well as those of all other students.
“I’m impressed by how friendly and approachable they are. There is always more everyone can be doing and I feel like [Dining Services] wants to do more, it is just going to take some time,” she said.