When Sarah Thurlow ’19 goes to Kimball, she doesn’t have the seemingly endless, all-you-can-eat options that her classmates do. Thurlow has celiac disease, which means she cannot eat foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It narrows her options at mealtime, and she is not alone: 150 students are part of Holy Cross’ Food and Special Diet Program (FASD).
The FASD provides specialty food for students with celiac disease and other medically diagnosed food allergies, including allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, shellfish/fish, sesame, lentils and certain fruits and vegetables. Students with food allergies have unlimited access to an allergy pantry stocked with allergen-free items and also have the option of special-ordering meals online. The meals can be hot and ready to eat, or prepared for takeout.
The takeout option means Thurlow, of West Newbury, Massachusetts, isn’t left out when people get together over meals. “I love to order gluten-free pizza online and bring it ‘to go’ from Kimball,” she says. “When my classes or friend groups have pizza nights, I can pre-order a pizza or other meals to have ready in the kitchen at a particular time.”
In addition to these options, many of the items in the main kitchen at Kimball are gluten free or vegan, and the dining staff clearly labels them all.
“The allergy program has provided me with security,” says Thurlow. And now she works in the allergy kitchen, in the hopes of encouraging and supporting other students as they manage their own food allergies. She assists the dining staff with baking and cooking allergy-free snacks and treats, from pizza bagels to cupcakes and muffins.
Even though she has a food allergy herself, Thurlow says that working in the allergy kitchen has given her a new sensitivity towards people with food allergies. “Whenever I bake or cook,
I post all of the wrappers or boxes on a bulletin board so students can read the ingredients, in case they have any concerns about their individual allergy.
I also write on a white board what I made and all the ingredients that I used, in order to provide maximum safety and clarity in what is being eaten,” she says.
“I also make sure that the utensils and trays are washed properly and sanitized, so they are safe for baking and cooking for all allergies.”
She employs this meticulous attention to detail for the safety of her fellow students with allergies, and also praises the efforts of the allergy kitchen staff.
“The allergy kitchen staff have provided me all of the comfort, care and guidance to be able to live a successful and healthy gluten-free lifestyle,” Thurlow says. “While having celiac in college challenges me to problem solve and navigate independently, the kitchen staff and the dietician, Alyssa Pittman, never hesitate to answer all questions, address any concerns and listen to suggestions from various allergy students in order to make our experiences as enjoyable as possible. The staff knows every student by name and accommodates our specific needs.”
This sort of personalized attention can make all the difference for a student dealing with food allergies, and it isn’t found at all schools. Lynn Cody, the marketing coordinator for dining, has encountered parents of Holy Cross students with food allergies who say that the allergy kitchen had an impact on the decision to come to Mount St. James. “The students are coming to Holy Cross because they feel safe with the options the allergy kitchen provides,” Cody says. ■
—Maura Sullivan Hill