Asking for a more inclusive SLU

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Saint Louis University prides itself on serving a diverse student-population with a plethora of options regarding activities and lifestyles, from housing to dining.   The University even claims to account for various food allergies, intolerances and preferences in the campus’ kitchens.   However, I have noticed inconsistent applications of food options on a daily basis.

Three years ago, I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant and forced to remove gluten from my diet. This greatly impacted my decision on where I would attend college because I refused to spend the next four years of my life living off salads.

SLU responded to my concerns with promises of a wide variety of gluten-free options and an all flex-meal plan. Needless to say, I was promised a lot more than what is actually provided on campus.

There are some considerations;  Grill Works carries gluten-free buns, the addition of Qdoba to Fusz, and the gluten labels at Greis.   The worst part is not the variety of food, but the judgment from dining staff.

It is very difficult for me, or any gluten-free student, to eat breakfast on campus, so when Greis began to offer gluten-free options, I was very excited.  These options allowed me to add more variety to my weekly meal plan. Two weekends ago, I had a craving for pancakes, at the traditional Greis Sunday  breakfast, and decided to ask the Greis dining staff to make me gluten-free pancakes. I was immediately told that they did not have any mix.  Assuming this to be true, I found something else to eat that day.

The following weekend, the urge for pancakes remained, so I once again returned to Greis in search of breakfast.  I jumped in the line that serves gluten pancakes and the lady running the station, I will refer to her  as “May I help you”, delivered the lines she is named after with just the right amount of sass that makes a person’s Sunday morning. I asked her if I could have some gluten-free pancakes made, to which the man behind her responded that he did not have time for such a task. He assigned the task to someone in the back kitchen, and I stepped to the side of the counter to wait for my food. During my wait, “May I help you” harassed me until my pancakes appeared 20 minutes later.   Throughout the wait, I was told that, “Oh, you think you’re special or something,” and that “You’re not the only one who believes they are special on this campus.”

The kind gentleman working the omelet station came over to me midway through my wait time and asked why I had been standing there for so long. I explained to him my situation, to which he kindly replied that he understood and could not imagine how hard it was for me to find food. “May I help you” was not pleased with this encounter and once again rattled off her comments. When my pancakes were finished, “May I help you” announced to everyone currently in line that the pancakes were for “this special young lady over here” and pointed in my direction.  With my head down, I quickly returned to my seat and ate my pancakes; I left Greis as soon as I finished.

This is one of the many experiences I have had throughout my freshman year at SLU.  Due to this encounter, I would like to clarify what it means to be gluten intolerant or have Celiac Disease, for everyone – students, faculty and staff.

Celiac Disease is an allergy to gluten or wheat, and diagnosed with an endoscopic test of the stomach lining. If the lining tests positive for the allergy, the diagnosis is Celiac Disease. If the test is negative, but the  adverse reaction to gluten persists, the individual is labeled as gluten intolerance.

This is a medical condition;  I did not choose to be this way.  I do not like to wait 20 minutes for my food, or be berated by dining staff, but I put up with in order to avoid being sick for the next three days. I am not asking for the entire campus to go gluten-free, but next time you are ordering food for an event or a club, think about the food allergies that people have, and try to make adjustments for them without unnecessary attitude.  A little consideration goes a long way.