Coming Together - 31 August '09
Last year at this time, it was estimated that 1 in 133 Americans (just under 1 percent of the population) has Celiac disease - now some estimates are saying that it could be as high as 3-4 percent of the population. Based on this, the estimated number of Celiacs on a campus of roughly 45,000 should be 1,575 students! Now while most of these students go undiagnosed, that is just an amazing number. When I first contacted the University of Washington regarding Celiac disease/dining accommodations back in 2007, I was told that only 6 other students on campus had made their diagnosis known -- this year, it’s up to 60 -- a ten-fold increase in just two years! As we all know, being gluten-free is not easy -- especially when you’re not at home. So how do you connect with the other students on campus? Because of strict confidentiality issues through both medical and disability offices, it can be challenging - but do not be discouraged!
How do you got about setting something up? First things first, contact the appropriate office (be it the medical center or the disability office) and explain that you would like to start a club of sorts and ask if they’ll pass along a message with your contact info, on your behalf -- this way, it’s the students’ choice to respond and contact you, or otherwise remain anonymous. If you receive an enthusiastic response, the next step is formalize your club: while this isn’t strictly necessary, it means that you’ll have access to materials, meeting rooms and other benefits through your institution that would otherwise be unavailable / expensive - including your name in the directory/student manual and possibly an office or webpage. Usually, registering a club like this is pretty simple: grab four people, go to the student body / student organization office and sign on up! However, each school’s policy will differ, so don’t take my word for it.
But why meet? Well what better way to figure out which restaurants to visit/avoid/explore than by discussing with other Celiac/gluten-intolerant students? They might have an amazing on-the-go lunch, or product, they absolutely adore that you’ve never even heard of. Even better, if you get together even once a month, you can place a grocery order online through companies like Amazon and consolidate: some products are only available in quantities too large for an individual, and shipping costs can be outrageous -- by purchasing as a group, you’re eliminating these common difficulties. As I have mentioned before, Pamela’s Products are an unbelievable resource for campus organizations: if you contact them here and fill out the form, they’ll send you a care package of sorts - a sample of their best-selling products like shortbread cookies and biscotti - how can you say no? There is one caveat: you HAVE to share! So go get your organization registered and place your order!
If you have any questions, comments or ideas of your own - let me know! Feel free to contact me at this link.
- Kelsey Ganes, University of Washington student