Choosing a College

Selecting a college is hard enough without food constraints. With planning it can be done! See the following suggestions for tips.

There are so many resources out there to help students select a college. There are books, websites, school counselors and private consultants that you can hire. And, there are the lists. You can look at schools based on best academics, best value, best college town, happiest students etc. There is even a list of the hairiest colleges.

But, what about food and in particular can the college accommodate your gluten-free (GF) diet? There are lists of colleges with the best food, the worst food and the healthiest food. There also have been a few attempts at making lists of schools that best handle the GF diet. But some students at schools on these lists claim very different GF experiences.

While making sure that your GF diet is accommodated in college is important, it is probably not the number one reason for choosing a particular school. Students who need a GF diet should start the college search process looking at college the same as any other student. They should narrow the thousands of options out there to a manageable list of 10 – 20 schools that they would seriously consider. Once you are here, it is time to look at food options. Based on what you learn you can keep that school on your list or eliminate them based on their ability to provide GF meals.

Here are the steps you can take to determine if the school can accommodate your GF diet. Many of these questions can be answered on the Dining Services page of the school website. Other questions will require that you call the school.

  • Find the Dining Services page on the school website. See what they say about accommodating special diets and what GF options are listed on the menu.
  • Connect with the Registered Dietician at the school as early as possible in case additional testing or documentation is needed. The dietician can work with the dining services to help ensure there are gluten free options available.
  • If you visit the school, ask if you can get a tour of the dining facilities in addition to the group tour of the school.
  • Find out where GF food is available. It may not be available in all dining halls
  • Find out if there are GF self-service areas available with dedicated toasters or specialty GF products.
  • What steps does the school take to avoid cross contact
  • Find out if GF options are readily available or if you need to order in advance.
  • If the school cannot accommodate the GF diet, do you have other options? Can you provide your own food and is there a safe place for you to cook and store that food.
  • Is the meal plan required? If a school cannot accommodate the diet and you are purchasing your own food you do not want to have to also pay for a meal plan.
  • Even if the school has great options for the GF diet, you will likely want to have food in your room for emergencies. Where is the nearest store for purchasing GF food? Is that accessible to you?

Once you have chosen a school you are not done. You will need to talk to dining services, the school dietitian and review other school resources in order to ensure that your GF needs are known and met. To help you we have a DVD “Gluten-Free at College” that can be purchased from Amazon. The DVD contains information that is useful for both the student and the dining hall staff.
Click Here to go to Amazon for video.

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