Dining Services Updates Gluten-Free Meal Plan

Liberty University Dining made changes to the Gluten Intolerant Option program last semester, adding more dining options for students with food restrictions so they can enjoy and maximize the use of their meal plan.

Rachel Sanders, the campus dietitian, says the GIO program upgraded some food options for different dining locations on campus. Doc’s Diner added gluten free pancakes, The Grid added a deli sandwich on gluten-free loaf bread and South Street added a cheesesteak sandwich on a gluten-free bun.

“We do have these specialty gluten-free products, but the bigger thing is how we prepare the food to avoid the cross-contact of gluten,” Sanders said.

According to Sanders, some of the dining services have separate preparation stations for the gluten-free option. At Sub Connection, there is a separate preparation station so that cross-contact of gluten can be avoided. 

Sanders talked about a checklist program that Garbanzo started last semester to accommodate gluten intolerant students. The gluten-free food option at Garbanzo is made in a separate area to avoid cross-contact.

Students who are a part of the GIO program fill out the checklist and an employee at Garbanzo will head to the GIO area to prepare their food. The employee changes their gloves and washes their hands before preparing the food. The food is labeled with a GIO sticker and given to the student.

“I think that at Liberty dining, our goal is to just continue to improve our program that we have in place and bring new, exciting things to dining,” Sanders said. “If there’s room to offer more things for our students, we want to do so.”

Liberty dining introduced the GIO program a couple of years ago at Liberty to accommodate the significant number of students who needed a gluten-free diet. According to the Liberty University Website, Liberty’s dining program won the award for Best Food Allergy Training at a University from AllerTrain in 2017. For those who are allergic to gluten, have Celiac Disease or desire to eat gluten-free, the GIO program offers more dining options to students with diet restrictions.

According to Sanders, students who are a part of the GIO program are able to use their 10 meal swipes per week at the retail locations on campus. Prior to the program, students who needed a gluten-free diet were limited to the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. Students can add the GIO program to both the Freedom Dining and the Freedom Dining PLUS+ plan at no additional charge.

Some retail locations on campus still do not offer a gluten-free option, however. Einstein’s Bros Bagels does not currently have a gluten-free bagel. Since it is a national brand, Liberty is not able to add to the menu. 

The addition of the GIO program leads to the question of whether Liberty will add a dairy intolerant program as well.

Sanders says there are no immediate plans for a dairy-free program like the GIO program, but there have been additions to some dining locations that include dairy-free options. These include dairy-free milk and a dairy-free desert option at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. The Grid has also started selling the brand, “Enjoy Life,” which is free of the most common allergens in their snacks and candy.

Lauren Shank is a News Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenmshank.

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