The Residence Dining Center is the go-to allergy-sensitive dining center on campus.
However, there’s a part of the dining center that’s open to only 27 of the 3,000 students on a meal plan and most of the service staff doesn’t even have access to it.
Those 27 students are using the gluten-free room in RDC. The students face challenges on what they can and can’t eat, and even a particle could make some of them ill. A special keycard is used to gain entry into the room, which was built in 2011.
The room is safe haven for those who are allergic to all things gluten, a protein found in wheat. Although the term “gluten-free” has recently become a trend for the public, students with gluten allergies don’t have a choice.
Even some unexpected candies contain wheat. One example that most wouldn’t think of as having gluten is licorice.
However, since being gluten-free has become a trend, the gluten-free market has exploded with various new products.
Roxanne England, a licensed, registered dietician, is responsible for ordering the room’s food and assisting students with dietary issues. England keeps the room stocked with new and the favorite foods that students request. A whiteboard in the room offers a place for students to jot down special food requests that they wish to see in the room.
Freshman Sabrina Wolfe, a pharmaceutical sciences major, said the room “was actually one of the deciding factors” in her decision to attend North Dakota State.
She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, like many who use the room, six years ago.
Wolfe said she was concerned how she was going to find meals in college because of the strict gluten-free diet she has to stick to.
She also said England helped her to not worry about living a gluten free lifestyle and the staff who work in the room “are always interested” in feedback on “new products that come in and recipes to try.”
The room is a mini kitchenette and is complete with a toaster oven, microwave, skillet, several coolers and several freezers. The room’s storage is full of gluten-free food items so that students who use the room can make their own meals without worry of contamination.
Wolfe said the room usually has a version of the hot meal that is being served on the line as well.
Although the room may feel squished at times if more than two students are in there, it’s a way for the students to connect and hear each other’s experience with living gluten-free.
The gluten-free room has brought a community together for students who are struggling with eating gluten-free, a community of students who can help each other throughout college, and possibly even after as they go off into the real world and have to find recipes that they can use without becoming ill.
“NDSU has done a great job of giving its students a resource to reduce the stress of living a normal gluten-free college life,” Wolfe said.