Students express concerns about gluten-free options in servery

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Photo credit: Surya Patil

The writing on the glass refers to one of the soups of the day, and reads “does not contain gluten ingredients.” Meghan Lambert, director of dining services, said the servery aims to have at least one, if not both, of the soups of the day be gluten-free.

By Surya Patil, Staff Reporter

As soon as the clock strikes 12:05 p.m., a daily sight on campus is the swarm of students rushing into the servery, while the checkout lines wrap around the dining hall. Director of Dining Services Meghan Lambert said many members of the Archer community rely on the servery for various meals and snacks throughout the day.

Students choose from a variety of options when it comes to breakfast, snacks and lunch. However, those with dietary restrictions have fewer options. Freshman Francie Wallack is diagnosed with Celiac disease, which causes her to have an immune response to gluten. If Wallack consumes food that is cross-contaminated with gluten, or foods that have particles of gluten in them, she can experience a range of uncomfortable digestive and non-digestive related symptoms.

“At the beginning of the year, I wrote a bunch of comment cards telling them that there were not enough options for me. [The servery staff] made a few changes, but they still do not really understand the difference between allergy and preference,” Wallack said. “I cannot have something if it is right next to gluten, and even with the salad bar — even though most things are gluten-free, there is pasta right next to the lettuce, meaning I cannot have the lettuce. There are little things that still are not thought about.”

 Everything that is gluten-free in the servery has absolutely no nutritional value. So I am eating pure gluten-free carbs, which is one, non-inclusive, and also unhealthy.

— Ella Schwartz ('25)

As of right now, the only gluten-free entrees available daily are the salad bar, cheeseburgers and hamburgers. Additional entrees, such as the gluten-free pasta, are usually served once a week.

Lambert said many items in the servery are gluten-free, however, due to health codes, Lambert is not able to explicitly state them as gluten-free. Instead, they are labeled as not containing gluten. In the future, Lambert’s goal for the servery is for them to provide a gluten-free entree each day.

“The reason why the gluten-free burgers are more expensive is because gluten-free buns cost me more than the regular buns,” Lambert said. “Unfortunately, that is the way the supply chain works. Similarly to dairy alternatives, almonds are way more expensive than regular milk. I try to be as fair as I possibly can, but at the end of the day, I still have food costs and quotas to meet.”

Students can share their opinions or suggestions for the servery through comment cards. The cards are displayed in the servery and reviewed each week by Lambert and Business Associate Beth Downing, who oversees the servery operations.

“Ideally, if someone leaves a comment card, they will leave their email address on there or their name, so we can find them and converse with them directly,” Downing said. “Otherwise, we will try to address it by looking at the card’s content. We will talk about if a change is possible or not, and if one is then we try to implement it as soon as we can.”

The Oracle sent out a survey to the student body asking gluten-free students their opinions on the gluten-free options in the servery and received 10 responses. Additionally, the survey included a question asking students whether they were gluten-free by choice or due to a medical condition.

Freshman Ella Schwarz, who also has Celiac disease, said she often has to resort to eating a bowl of rice for lunch. Schwartz said that in general, the servery needs to carry more healthy snack and meal options.

“I think that the servery workers do a good job of writing the ingredients in the meals on the board,” Schwartz said. “That is really helpful, but it is sometimes hard to find food that I can eat, and that really sucks since then I have to go hungry during the school day and wait to eat at home.” 

Lambert said there are 25-30 gluten-free students who eat regularly from the servery, but there is a larger amount of vegetarian and vegan students. There is at least one vegetarian entree offered for lunch each day. Additionally, on “Meatless Mondays,” the servery only serves vegetarian entrees for lunch.

Wallack said she feels the servery is discriminatory against gluten-free people.

“It does not make us feel comfortable to eat at the servery every day because of their lack of accommodations. It is upsetting,” she said. “We should be comfortable in our school environment.”