Despite national ranking, students seek gluten free improvements

Geneseo ranked second on Udi’s Top 10 Gluten Free Accommodating Colleges list in 2014, sitting just behind the University of Connecticut. Campus Auxiliary Services has worked to maintain and improve this standing.

“In a broad sense, CAS wants to enhance the mission of the campus by providing the services that we do,” Director of Culinary Operations and Executive Chef Jonna Anne said. “We are there to give sustenance and be a learning experience outside of the classroom.”

Anne noted that this learning experience includes not only unique, ethnic and comfort food, but a variety of gluten free products as well.

Gluten free options developed on campus approximately five years ago when students with dietary restrictions began advocating for an improved menu. The culinary team acknowledged these requests and strove to take a natural approach when offering entrees. Kitchen stations like Kasha in Letchworth Dining Hall provide a selection of foods that come naturally gluten free.

“People sometimes lump gluten-free food with fruits and vegetables, but the chefs here try to incorporate entrees that are appealing to anyone,” Anne said. “There are times that we serve 300 portions of something at Kasha because the menu is that good.”

Entrees served at Kasha have included beef nachos, pork tenderloin and stuffed peppers—each of which are gluten free, yet non-gluten free students can also enjoy them.

Anne explained that CAS is also working to develop a gluten-free station at Red Jacket Dining Hall on South Side, where staff members can create entrees and bake desserts specifically for those with dietary restrictions.

“We want our students to be able to go into any of our restaurants and cafes, eat with their friends and still have a gluten-free option,” Anne said.

Nutrition and Wellness Coordinator for CAS Cory Hancock indicated improvements in baking for the future of gluten-free at Geneseo, specifically for providing baked goods such as pastries and cookies. Hancock additionally noted that she hosts forums each year in order to connect with these students and sends out emails to share nutritional information.

Sophomore Sarah Hernandez is a member of the gluten-free community that Hancock often worksworth. Hernandez emphasized that she believes CAS does well accommodating for the needs of gluten-free students dietary.

“Fusion is my favorite place to eat on campus,” she said. “They have options for me at all the food stations.”

Although Hernandez purchases and cooks much of her own food, she acknowledged that there is food available to her at every place on campus. Her only complaint, however, was the issue of timeliness when receiving orders.

“It can take a long time to get your sandwich or stir fry,” she said.

This may result from the safety procedure cooks follow when handling the food, which includes using equipment designated for those with allergen restrictions.

Sophomores Emma Weissman and Simone Weinmann said they find timeliness to be an issue as well. “There are times I can be standing in line for 30 minutes,” Weissman said.

“The staff can also be rude to my request for gluten free food,” Weinmann said. “It makes me feel uncomfortable. It would be better to have more people trained specifically to cook gluten free.”

Additionally, Weinmann said she wishes to see more gluten free available snacks in the Mary Jemison or Letchworth dining halls.

“I purchased the snack basket from Cory Hancock, which is great in theory, but it was expensive and took forever to deliver,” she said. “Having more snacks stocked in Letch would be great.”

Regardless, Hernandez explained that she finds Geneseo more accommodating than other campuses she has visited. Hernandez noted that while SUNY Oneonta has a similar number of gluten free products, most require the customer to reheat or cook them themselves.