Skip to main content

Changing Food Culture For Health

Gluten: Changing the way we eat.

“The word gluten in latin means glue” (Bower 60). Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm (a type of tissue produced in seeds that's ground to make flour). Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products. Gluten is actually composed of two different proteins: gliadin (a prolamin protein) and glutenin (a glutelin protein).

Gluten free products are very limited within the school, but 1-133 American suffer from some variation of a gluten intolerance (Best Colleges 1). There is a large opportunity here to help those who cannot currently obtain the diet they are so restricted to and many colleges have already started to acknowledge the rising number of affected students.

The benefits of this plan are overwhelming as students will not have to worry about

searching for food they can eat. They will be able to attend more classes because they will know that what they are eating is okay and won’t put them in a situation where they are toilet surfing instead of being in class. Since gluten allergies are not as common among freshman college students you could argue that the demand would not be high enough. On the contrary, many snacks are appealing to the general populace but has the added benefit of serving both groups, such as potato chips.

I personally have struggled with stomach issues my entire life and little was known about gluten. Since I was a child I was often trapped in the bathroom. I noticed as I grew older I was naturally attracted to things that omitted wheat but I often overlooked this fact and would gorge on bread and pasta. The way I would feel after eating it is something only another person with a gluten intolerance would understand. It feels like glass in your stomach and then you are in so much physical pain that the bowel movement is welcomed. Unlike a normal case of diarrhea though, the pain doesn’t leave when you hit empty. It follows you throughout the day/night only getting better after days of detox occur.

The idea of going gluten free scares some people but they only need to realize that they are just giving up wheat products...not sugar or fat. So when you look at what you normally eat on a daily basis you can see that there would not be that much of a change unless you are a junk food person. Replacing wheat for other products makes people apprehensive but if the product is already produced and made available the switch will be easy.

There are other types of people that frown on a gluten change also; the non believers. They believe that there is no such thing as gluten intolerance and refuse to change their diet because they simply believe that gluten isn’t real. They refuse to think that after thousands of years of wheat consumption that such a thing could even come to pass. The truth is that their lack of education on the subject caused them not to notice the symptoms that may seem so obvious in the world of modern medicine. Back in the beginning bread was a staple food and if you couldn’t eat it--you would die. Gluten allergies took centuries of misdiagnosis before they even began to crack the code of wheat and its evil roots. It was thought to be witchcraft, demons, or consumption only solvable by faith, magic or death.

A vegetarian is a person who doesn’t eat meat for one reason or another being moral, religious or health reasons. While meat is a staple in many peoples life and is a large source of their protein. Vegetarians obtain most of their protein through nuts or supplements. According to a recent Gallup poll only 5% of Americans are considered to be true vegetarians while 33% claim to eat vegetarian 90% of the time or more (Newport 1).

I recently had the opportunity to interview a true vegetarian who has never purposefully ever eaten meat. She was raised to believe the harming of animals is wrong and that they should be respected. She is a huge animal lover having several animals under her care and many more within her family. When I asked her why she has never even tried meat she said the smell of it made her sick and always have. When I think of Sunday morning breakfast my mouth begins to water at the thought of the bacon sizzling in the pan. How could she find this disgusting. It is actually known that people who had serious aversion to what they will eat will also have aversion to sight and smell of those items as well.

While Jillian is thin, she is not scary underweight. She admits to having a junk food addiction that causes her to maintain body fat. When I asked her to name the junk foods that she would gorge on we found that only one out of the 6 she listed was actually vegetarian. She was shocked to learn but was thankful for the knowledge but it ultimately reset her vegetarian clock as now she feels she has never been a vegetarian since she has been eating these foods her whole life.

Unfortunately reading ingredients on a package isn’t enough to say its vegetarian or gluten free since most companies are not required to list ingredients with under and 2% value. Top help prevent this confusion and outrage upon discovery, companies should willingly label their products so that all may know. It is not legally required for companies to put this information on the packaging but why wouldn’t they? It doesn’t cost anything extra and would save so much angst and confusion. When I go to the store to buy a bag of chips I usually buy the same one because I know its gluten free and/or vegetarian...its says so right on the bag. Then a new chip product line comes out and they look delicious but the bag isn’t labeled and do I really want to take the chance? The answer is no, especially if it is going to make me sick or feel bad. I will return to buy the same chips I always do which is good for the company that gets my moment and bad for the company who is trying to win that sale.

There are so many benefits to eating gluten free. It not only increases the efficiency of your digestive tract, it allows your small intestine to absorb more nutrients normally blocked by the wheat germ attaching itself to the villi on the walls. Eating gluten free has also been known to improve better focus and clearer thinking by reducing headaches and blocking cytokines which have been known to cause life altering ailments such as Autism, ADHD, Alzheimers, and Parkinsons (Kannall 1). Cytokines have also been known to cause inflammation in other areas of the body such as joints and even has been known to cause eczema. Eating gluten free has also been known to drastically improve mood since the body is no longer struggling to absorb nutrients leaving you malnourished and in a general state of fatigue. It has also been know to solve anemia by actually allowing iron to be absorbed into the bloodstream instead of being forced out in waste form.

Just to help further dive into the situation, I interviewed a sole carnivore. This means this person eats less than 10% of their intake as fresh vegetables (Brown 1). This individual I know personally and he is obese, grumpy, in a lot of pain and is generally a horrible person to be around. It may just be his personality but I am sure his poor diet isn’t helping. He averages eating over 10 lbs of meat a week. When I asked how many vegetables he eats his response was “is mountain dew a vegetable? It’s green.” Now I realize not every sole carnivore is like this but I did notice a pattern when we looked at others I knew. To make the situation worse, I asked about his general health and despite the things I have already listed, there were many more. His joints ache, his back hurts and he has trouble walking sometimes. Most of these can be contributed to his obesity. He continues to tell me that even at his young age he is likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in the near future and is already on prescription for hypertension and cholesterol medicine.

So what are the benefits to being a vegetarian vs. being a sole meat eater. While meat is a wonderful source of protein and provides other benefits such as iron, riboflavin, vitamin B, niacin and thiamin it is also loaded with saturated fats that cause cholesterol levels to skyrocket. White meat is preferable over red meat since it tends to be leaner. Eating high diets of red meat can lead to heart disease, high cholesterol levels and hypertension. Also by eating large amounts of meat you aren’t getting the carbs you need to promote a healthy energy level which means you won’t burn all the fat you just consumed which can quickly lead to obesity.

Vegetarians have a high vitamin intake since that is where most nutrients reside. The tend to live a healthier lifestyle since they are not bogged down from the lack of energy and also tend to choose not to smoke or drink. Being a vegetarian is a lifestyle. There are down sides to being a vegetarian such as lack of protein especially if the vegetarian doesn’t supplement with fish. More problems arise if the person is gluten free and vegetarian as they will lack carbohydrates and folic acid which are both supplied by grains. However this can be simply resolved by increase intake of potatoes and rice. It is also known that vegetarians tend to be less likely to contract fat soluble disease in which the sickness lies dormant in fat until it is burned and then infects the recipient. They are also known to be less likely to contract cancer and diabetes.

So ultimately the question is why should the school offer and label gluten-free and vegetarian meals and snacks. The answer is simple. Your are promoting a healthier lifestyle which may not have been learned at home but can be at least offered. While most people have no restrictions to what they can eat, many do and are unwilling to take a leap of faith. It should be done because these foods can still be appealing to the other students but again will be overlooked by the ones who are concerned for their health. Its the right thing to do so people don’t feel tricked like Jillian did when she realized her entire life had been a lie even if it was to her own knowledge. Help make better choices for all and the benefits can never cease to end.

In our small school I believe with vendor support we could have the school completely labeled and running a gluten free and vegetarian menu in less than 90 days. It will be mostly the work of the vendors and the cafeteria staff. Simple changes will have to be made such as offering just 1 type of rice wrap instead of 4 kinds of wheat ones. Offering un-breaded or grilled chicken tenders. Offering salad dressing that are gluten free. Most of our effort would have to be put into labeling as most of the product the school carried is vendor shipped.

Interview with the Bruce Forgrave: Sodexo Manager at Chesapeake College

Q1: Are you aware of the growing interest in gluten free diets?

A1: Our Company has been watching the growth of the G.F diet closely and see a 30+% growth rate at the present time.

Scroll to Continue

Q2: Did you know that gluten sensitivity and intolerance has been increasing at an alarming rate among consumers?

A2: Not sure why gluten sensitivity has grown so high in the last 10 years, but we are certainly aware of it.

Q3: Do you feel that the cafeteria at Chesapeake college offers an adequate selection of gluten free options for people with diet restrictions?

A3:We are looking to increase our gluten free options next semester with bagels, pizza crust, deli bread as well as some new snack items. We tried this last year, and the snacks offered were not purchased . The industry seems to be one step behind

Q4: Would making simple menu changes such as offering foods that contain gluten free products or offering the option to omit gluten ingredients from existing menu items drastically increase cost?

A4: You nailed it. Cost is double, and in some cases triple what wheat / grain products cost. We can do a better job of creating specials and snacks made in house, such as offering corn chips in place of tortilla’s with our Latin Specials. More fresh fruits and veggies will also help.

Q5: Would you consider introducing foods that are clearly labeled as gluten free a viable strategy for creating a healthier food culture on campus?

A5: We are going to have more G.F labeling in next semesters planogram. Many G.F. items such as Yogurt, and lays chips are labeled G.F on the back of the items. It is our intention to have a G.F Friendly menu posted in August.


Thanks for bringing up the subject. It is essential to remember that people are embracing the G.F lifestyle for many reasons. Celiac’s disease is our most pressing concern for our patrons. They have zero tolerance for gluten; subsequently employee training in this matter is essential to prevent cross contamination. There are individuals with intolerances which affect their digestive tract. Many customers, including my wife seek a gluten free / semi-G.F lifestyle to lose weight, or keep their weight in check. Over the past few years, our Deli, and salad selections have become very health friendly. We added a Salad Bar this semester which has been well received. Many of Sodexo’s larger Colleges, Universities, Healthcare facilities, and Corporate clients have led the way in this regard, which will make it easier for the Skipjack Café to transition to “Best Practices” this fall.

Thank you,

Bruce Forgrave,Sodexo Manager Chesapeake College

Cost of replacing standard menu items currently served at Chesapeake college with gluten free alternatives:

Bagel $0.46 - GF $1.10

Hamburger Bun $0.12 - GF $1.00

Tortilla wrap $0.32 - GF $0.55

Muffin $0.66 - GF $1.16


"14 Colleges That Cater to Gluten-Free Students." Best Colleges. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.

Newport, Frank. "In U.S. 5% Consider Themselves Vegetarians." Gallup. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

Kannall, Eric. "What are the Benefits to Eating Gluten Free." SFGate Healthy Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

"Being a Vegetarian." Brown University. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2015. <>.

Bower, Sylvia Llewelyn. Gluten-free Lifestyle. New York: Demos Health, 2011. Print.

Related Articles