The gluten-free market is growing for both people who want to eat healthier and those who need the gluten-free diet for health reasons. “The Rise of the Gluten-Free Diet”, an online article and chart created by Statista data journalist Niall McCarthy, said, “3.1 million Americans now follow a gluten-free diet and 72% of them are classified as ‘PWAGs’ or people without celiac disease avoiding gluten.” But for those with Celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance, they don’t have much of a choice.
For two PLNU students eating gluten-free isn’t a choice – it’s a necessity. When Laura Brown, PLNU junior, and Sophia Mirth, PLNU sophomore, go to the Caf over the weekend, they expect to have the same gluten-free options as they do during the week. But this is not the case.
The Caf offers “Simple Servings,” an allergen-safe dining option for the students with allergies or intolerances to certain food. This option, however, is not offered on weekends. Miles Rottman, PLNU Sodexo General Manager, said that they don’t offer “Simple Servings” on Saturdays or Sundays because not enough students identify as having a need. Rottman said that last year, Sodexo and PLNU Dining did a trial run over a five-week period. They served “Simple Servings” all seven days of the week; the numbers then showed that this station was not being used by enough students. Sodexo decided to only provide the food found in the gluten-free area, “My Zone,” and the allergen-friendly foods directly requested to be made by the chefs. This decision has had an impact on students, like Mirth and Brown.
Brown has had Celiac disease since she was 10-years-old and has struggled with eating gluten-free over weekends since beginning at PLNU three years ago. She said how she often only eats from the salad bar when “Simple Servings” isn’t offered. Brown describes the salad bar as “concerning” due to cross contamination. Brown said, “we need to eat on the weekend, too,” and the current weekend options in the Caf just aren’t cutting it.
Brown added that she has requested a gluten-free meal be made for her over the weekend in the past. It took over 30 minutes to prepare, and Brown’s friends were already done eating by the time her food came out. It wasn’t an efficient or convenient option for her, especially compared to the students who don’t need to eat gluten-free.
Mirth, who is gluten-intolerant, has only one request for Sodexo and PLNU Dining. She said, “keep the Caf the same over the weekend as during the week.” She said the options from Monday through Friday are great gluten-free options, and she would like to see those on the other two days of the week as well.
For students who are unhappy with the gluten-free options or would like “Simple Servings” to be offered on Saturdays and Sundays, there is something they can do. PLNU Dining allows students to give feedback on the food and services of the Caf by texting “plnueats + feedback” to 82257.
Sophia Mirth (PLNU sophomore – Applied Health Science)
Laura Brown (PLNU junior – Child and Adolescent major)
Miles Rottman (Sodexo General Manager of PLNU)