Sunday, December 18, 2011

GF at UConn

Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I have posted, but I’ve been busy up at UConn So far, college is much different from high school, but in a good way. The most noticeable change is the sheer number of students. UConn’s undergraduate student body is composed of about 17,000 students; Westbrook, my hometown has less than 10,000 residents, and my high school only has 300 kids. Despite this drastic change, I am fitting in well and have met many new people. The atmosphere is also much different, as one would expect. I feel much more independent and in control of my own life, which I love.

Fortunately, the GF food situation is amazing here at UConn. I expected gluten-free eating choices in college to be repetitive and not too great. They have been just the opposite, in fact. All foods are labeled with nutrition cards; at the bottom of the card, there is a line of text that lists the common allergens present in the food. If I see “wheat” or “gluten” listed, I simply don’t eat the food provided. Following this method, I have not felt “gluten-sickness” (as I like to call it) since I’ve been here. The variety of gluten-free foods available is also impressive. For the most part, the meals I consume are regular foods available to other students – they just happen to be gluten-free. There is generally no separate part of the cafeteria with GF meal foods. This prevents students from standing out for being GF eaters, although this has never really bothered me.

In addition to the cooked foods, the dining halls also have frozen gluten-free bread products (and a dedicated GF toaster) that I can access on my own terms if I want a sandwich, bagel, or toast. If in the mood for pizza, the dining hall gave me a number I can call within a half hour to request a customizable freshly baked GF pizza. They will also cook GF pasta with a request. I’ve been to all eight dining halls on campus and have always had something to eat.

Other methods are also employed to assist students with Celiac disease or gluten-intolerance in picking safe food choices. For example, all dining halls have coolers with different tubs of ice cream. The labels on the ice cream usually list the allergens, or there is an easily accessible book of nutrition information (including allergens) available. The ice cream scoops sit in a water bath, which helps to eliminate cross-contamination from other ice creams, cones, etc. UConn even provides GF students with a list of gluten-free foods available at the retail dining locations in the Student Union area. This combination of factors has made the transition from home-cooked meals to UConn’s cafeteria pretty effortless (although, of course, my mom’s food is always better.)

All in all, I would strongly recommend UConn to any GF students considering it. I guarantee if you come here, you will have no problem finding good food to eat, and will not stand out. I’ve already met a few kids on a gluten-free diet. UConn is very GF friendly!

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