For Jessica Belote, a second-year game design student from Denville, New Jersey, a typical lunch at one of the dining halls at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Savannah campus consists of salad bar fare and vegetables. Belote is not a vegetarian, but due to her gluten allergy, she said it is often difficult for her to find suitable gluten-free meal options.
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins and responsible for the elasticity found in bread or other wheat-based products.
“I started developing a plethora of allergies around my freshman year of high school, and one of those allergies included wheat,” Belote explained.
“So I cut anything containing gluten altogether…and I just felt better overall,” she added.
At SCAD, food services provided by Bon Appétit Management Company cater to students with gluten allergies at all SCAD dining halls and cafes, according to Bon Appétit marketing manager, Heather Carbone.
“We have a full salad bar with dressings that are without gluten for the most part,” Carbone said. “[The] majority of our house made soups are without gluten. Vegetables are served at all meal periods that are generally made without gluten. At our grill station, we offer burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and grilled vegetables that, if ordered without the bun, are without gluten.”
According to Carbone, Bon Appétit also offers gluten free bread in a special gluten-free cooler, a majority of dining hall meat entrees are prepared without gluten and corn starch is often substituted for flour in certain meals.
Carbone shared that SCAD has served gluten-free meal options from the beginning of Bon Appétit’s partnership with the university. However, some students like Belote are still concerned about the lack of gluten-free meal options.
Finding restaurants in Savannah accommodating to Belote’s gluten allergy is a simple task compared to finding food she can safely consume at the SCAD dining halls.
“The menus they put up are not always correct when they say ‘gluten free option.’ There have been many times I’ve gone to double check and have been told that that particular food was mislabeled and that I cannot eat it,” said Belote.
“I’ve gotten sick a number of times due to incorrect information,” Belote said.
“Educate the staff better, make sure they are following the menu for the day and are not deviating from the recipe, and have more options meal to meal,” Belote suggested to improve the experience for students with gluten-free diets.
Belote understands her dietary restrictions make eating at the dining halls a challenge. She welcomes discussion on the topic not just for her benefit but for other students in her position.
“Even small changes, like making sure there’s an equal amount of meat or main dish foods that are gluten free and not during the same meal, would be incredibly helpful,” Belote said. “I don’t want to waste money that I could put towards my own groceries on a meal plan that cannot provide me with adequate nutrition.”
Carbone acknowledged gluten intolerance is something that affects many students like Belote, in addition to faculty and staff across SCAD Savannah’s campus. This makes it a high priority for Carbone and her Bon Appétit team.
“We want everyone to be able to enjoy a full meal every time they enter our café’s, and we are always looking for new and innovative ways to do just that,” Carbone said.
If students have any concerns or questions regarding their dietary-specific options at the dining hall, Carbone said they should ask to speak to a manager or the chef who prepared their meal.
“We would always prefer the student stay safe and ask than guess,” Carbone said.
Comment cards are also available for students to give feedback. To view their daily menu, find café hours or contact managers visit the Café Bon Appétit.
Written by Emilie Kefalas.