The gluten-free trend has been growing in the U.S. in recent years, becoming both a fad and a lifestyle. Whether people are gluten-intolerant or not, restaurants and dining facilities nationwide are restructuring their menus to accommodate gluten-free patrons.
The University of Maine Dining Services has been growing recently to accommodate for such needs of students.
The three residential dining halls, York, Wells and Hilltop, offer gluten free “zones” for students to get special food. These zones include foods such as Udi’s gluten-free bread, and gluten-free desserts and pasta.
Other food throughout the dining hall is labeled gluten-friendly (GF) — which means that the foods do not contain gluten — as well as vegan, dairy-free and nut-free. The Bear’s Den marketplace also labels all of its signs, although students with medical needs are encouraged to meet with Dining Services for information about eating in the other venues.
However, any student, whether or not they have a medical condition, can go into the gluten-free zones to get food. Some universities have started locking these zones to prevent cross-contamination, but UMaine has chosen not to do this.
Kerry Chasteen is the Quality Assurance Manager with Dining Services at the UMaine. This is her fourth year in this position, although she has worked with Dining Services for nine years.
“It’s an ever-changing program,” Chasteen said of Dining Services.
Chasteen graduated from UMaine with a degree in food science and human nutrition before later working for the university.
“I think there is an interest in a lifestyle choice for students that want to eat gluten-free products,” Chasteen said.
While many people choose to eat gluten-free as a result of recent trends, they are not necessarily diagnosed as gluten-free, and instead want to make a dietary change.
There are multiple options for gluten-free students to also eat at off-campus locations.
Raegamuffin’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Veazie is entirely gluten-free as well as tree nut and peanut-free. There are also some dairy-free options.
Rachel Eugley opened the bakery a year-and-a-half ago after attending culinary school. Gluten-free herself, she wanted to create an option in the area for others.
“I definitely wanted to do something with allergies,” Eugley said.
Eugley explained that about half the customers who come into the bakery are gluten-free for medical reasons, while many customers see the location as convenient. Additionally, many parents place orders for schools, which are often nut-free. As Eugley explained, there is not another bakery like this in the area.
“I was never really content working for other people,” Eugley said of the decision to open her own bakery.
Several other restaurants in the Bangor area cater to gluten-free patrons, including The Juice Cellar, a vegan and gluten-free restaurant in Bangor. Chipotle in Bangor also follows precautions to ensure no cross contamination, and most of the food is naturally gluten-free.
Chasteen assured that Dining Services is changing rapidly to fit student needs, and that they often listen to students’ concerns.
“We are always listening to student feedback,” Chasteen said.
Any students with dietary restrictions or concerns can contact Kerry Chasteen or the UMaine Dining Services located in 103 Hilltop.