Students with allergy face difficulty with on-campus dining


The Gluten-Free Zone in the Fresh Food Company at University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. on Wednesday, February 24, 2016. Photo by Josh Mott | Staff.

Abby Walker

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Managing an allergy isn’t always the easiest thing to work with, especially as a student on a college campus.

At UK, many students have dietary restrictions that don’t allow them to consume gluten, the name for proteins found in bread, noodles, crackers, cakes and sauces, as well as many others products.

“You can order food without buns, but most food either touches or is contaminated (by gluten),” sophomore Shelby Koopman said. Koopman has been gluten free since 2015. UK PR said they do not know how many students at UK are on a gluten free or restricted diet.  

UK Dining establishments like Blazer dining hall and The 90 offer gluten-free stations to accommodate students who live with gluten-free lifestyles.

“The Gluten Free Zone operates on a four week cycle and offers lunch and dinner items such as chicken soft tacos, herb-roasted turkey breast, and spicy jalapeno chicken panini. Blazer Dining has a variety of vegetables that can be mixed with rice noodles for stir-fry dishes,” said UK Dining dietitian nutritionist Lauren McKnight-Ford.

The dining halls on campus also keep most of the food separated by individual food item, allowing students with gluten intolerance to pick and choose what they can eat.

“Everything is separate. If I wanted a burger, I could have a burger and bring my own bread,” Koopman said.

When it comes to other places to eat on campus, Greens to Go in Bowman’s Den offers salads that can be made without gluten products. McKnight-Ford also said other dining locations like Rising Roll offer gluten-reduced options.

“At Chik-Fil-A, they make grilled chicken nuggets instead of the breaded nuggets. And usually the fries are okay. They make them in separate fryers,” Koopman said.

All the same, Koopman said she thinks UK Dining can improve their options for gluten-free food in the future.

“(UK Dining) should look into getting more gluten-free stuff because a lot of people are becoming gluten-free or paying attention to what they’re eating,” Koopman said. “It’s mostly just salads. They don’t really have gluten-free) bread to make a sandwich, so I think they could offer more stuff.”

Koopman said overall, staying gluten-free is not easy.

“If there aren’t a ton of options, I won’t really eat,” Koopman said. “I loved gluten before I had to quit eating it.”

UK Dining has information about eating gluten-free on campus online at