Finding Other Celiacs for Support
As you may or may not know, the statistics on Celiac disease are astonishing. Research shows that every 1 in 133 Americans has Celiac disease - that's just under 1% of the population! So on a university campus as large as mine - featuring more than 45,000 students, one would expect to encounter some 450 other Celiacs, right? Not to mention all of the individuals with Gluten-Intolerance or those simply choosing a gluten-free diet! Engaging this notion of potential gastro-intestinally challenged peers, I sought to create a Registered Student Organization (RSO - basically, a formalized on-campus club that receives certain benefits) in an effort to meet other young adults on campus who are facing the same unique challenges as myself.
The first step, always the most difficult, is finding people. At some universities (like mine) Celiacs can find advocates and aid with the campus' disability office, and while this is an excellent resource, the strict confidentiality policies are somewhat prohibitive when it comes to gathering contact information. Personally, I contacted the disability office, provided my information and eagerly awaited a response! Once I found four other members, I was able to register our group with the Student Activites Office, which provides benefits such as meeting spaces, and print and publication resources and of course, a directory listing and listserv. While every college is different, I would absolutely encourage you to find out what it takes to set up a support group, club or organization on campus and get together!
These meetings are a great way to share experiences with local restaurants, navigating campus food services, and resources. For example, you could get together once a week - even once a month! - and place collective orders for products only available online and (as is usually the case) only available in quantities which are too much for one person to reasonably consume or with free shipping available after spending a certain amount. One particular resource I would like to share with you is Pamela's Products; you probably recognize the name from their amazing baking mixes, cookies and biscotti (yum!) but what you probably don't know is how fabulous the people at Pamela's are. If you contact them here and, using your university/college e-mail and address, they'll send you a batch of gluten-free cookies for your meetings! Amazing, right? There is, however, one stipulation: you have to share them! So get out there and find some of those other students on campus who are also gluten-challenged and start pooling those resources!
If you want to contact me, please direct all questions or comments to (http://www.glutenfreeda.com/contact.asp)
- Kelsey Ganes, University of Washington student