College adds gluten-free pastries to menu

During her freshman year at Marietta, Olivia von Lembcke ’14 (Columbus, Ohio) lived on a diet of omelets, plain salads and Corn Flakes.

“I have celiac disease and I just recently found out that I have gallbladder disease,” she says. “I have to avoid gluten because when I eat it my body cannot break wheat or barley down, and instead it makes me really sick.”

Von Lembcke is not alone. In the United States, more than 3 million people are affected by celiac disease—which is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects how the body digests nutrients in the small intestine. When someone with celiac disorder consumes food that contains gluten—a protein found in wheat, rye and barley—the body’s immune system reacts by attacking the small intestine. These attacks prevent the body from absorbing essential nutrients and cause serious damage to the small intestine.

A new specialty bakery program, using a uniquely designed oven recently added to Gilman Dining Hall, allows von Lembcke and other students, staff and faculty with similar gluten-free diets to add a few more items to their plates. The Bready machine is a special oven that bakes gluten-free bread and cake products. The oven is approved by the Celiac Sprue Association. Chartwells unveiled its “Made Without Gluten Dining Program” in November, which also coincided with the partnership to the Bready North America company. Marietta College is one of the first colleges served by Chartwells to receive the Bready machine.

“We have about 15 students who have special gluten-free dietary needs,” says Zena Maggitti, Director of Dining Services. “In addition to breads, this machine will make pizza dough and chocolate cake. All of it is very tasty and moist and, most of all, safe for people who need to stay away from gluten.”

This is among the many special accommodations that Dining Services, through Chartwells, has implemented at the College since the start of the year. Maggitti says Gilman has an area, called Your SPACE (Specially Prepared Allergen-Controlled Eating) that is specifically gluten and allergen free. The utensils at that station are also specially cleaned and stored to prevent cross-contamination. “There is always food at that station,” Maggitti says.

Recently, Maggitti was contacted by the wife of an alumnus who was taking classes at a community college in a nearby city. The woman had a child who suffered from a severe peanut allergy.

“This was a major health concern for her son so she was doing research on colleges that accommodated for special dietary needs. Marietta College’s site happened to pop up during her search and it gave her peace of mind for when he goes to college to know that colleges were taking this seriously,” Maggitti says.

Before the College introduced the new dining options, finding safe meals to eat was a daily challenge for von Lembcke. “It was extremely hard,” she says. People don’t realize how much gluten is in daily foods. I can’t even eat some of the meat at Gilman because it could be covered in sauce that contains wheat.”

When it was discovered that she had gallbladder disease in addition to Celiac, eating became even more difficult. She couldn’t eat anything that was high in fat. “So that limited my meals to only salads with olive oil.”

Students can meet with Maggitti to discuss their special dietary needs. Though specialized dining options are only currently available at Gilman, von Lembcke sees this as a step in the right direction.

“I think (the Your SPACE zone) is great and they are finally starting to understand that there are kids who cannot eat a lot at Gilman,” von Lembcke says. “I am glad that they are adding more gluten free options and I hope when we come back from break there will be even more!”