Julia Maher ‘23
Chief Opinions Editor
College of the Holy Cross has a great allergy program, which allows students to preorder food that accommodates their food allergies. There are many gluten free options, which provide students with celiac disease or a wheat allergy gluten free foods to eat. But there are two other categories of gluten free students who are excluded from this opportunity—students with non-celiac gluten sensitivity and students who cannot be tested for celiac.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is fairly common, but many people perpetuate misconceptions about it. It is the most common gluten-related disorder, affecting about 0.5-13% of the population, but many people deny its existence. There seems to be a lack of medical evidence that confirms its reality, yet so many people feel healthier and have reduced physical symptoms after cutting gluten out of their diet. Of course, anecdotal evidence does not provide medical evidence, but if people feel better not eating gluten, they undeniably are gluten sensitive or intolerant. The idea that these people simply feel better due to the placebo effect is ignorant to very real health conditions that pose palpable risks.
It is not very well known, but many people cannot be tested for celiac. Getting tested requires eating gluten for an extended period of time, but many people have already cut gluten out of their diet to improve health issues before they think or have the chance to get tested. Since they have already stopped eating gluten, reintroducing their food intolerance is hazardous, unhealthy, and dangerous to their physical and possibly even mental health, due to the microbiome’s effect on mental health. This is true for me, since I have been gluten free since 2013, and eating it again for an extended period of time would cause physical and mental health issues. Other people simply cannot afford to be tested or do not have the insurance or resources to do so.
Even though these non-celiac or untested students do not have proof of allergy, they still should be able to have more gluten free options in Holy Cross’s dining. Gluten free students who do not have access to the allergy preorder system do not get the same food as those who have been able to test for celiac. Although students do not have proof of allergy, that does not mean that they should be excluded from ordering delicious gluten free meals that will make them feel accommodated and included in the same way all other Holy Cross students are. There are some gluten free options in Kimball, like the stir fry station, which has recently become entirely gluten free, and other basic foods, but there are never specially made gluten free meals. In contrast, there are a ton of vegan options in the classics station, like meatless wings, and there is always vegan pizza. Why can’t there be the same for gluten free students?
I’ll never forget the one time I checked the Kimball menu and gluten free ravioli was listed as an item. I was so excited! There are never any special gluten free options like that. But then, when I went to Kimball, the gluten free ravioli was nowhere to be found. It must have been a mistake, or what was available for preorder in the allergy program, and I was very disappointed. Without fun gluten free versions of foods like pizza and chicken parmesan, for example, gluten free students cannot enjoy food the same way everyone else can. The chicken parmesan always has a vegetarian option, eggplant parmesan, but there is never a gluten free option, other than simply having grilled chicken with tomato sauce. Most days I am stuck eating grilled chicken, brown rice, and fruits and veggies from the salad bar. Holy Cross, please do better. There can be more gluten free additions to the menu that make students feel included.