The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



SMC begins club for food allergies

Jill Barwick | Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saint Mary’s freshman Megan Steron is one of two million people in the United States living with celiac disease, a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Her intolerance to gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley, makes eating on a college campus a challenge.

“About two weeks into school, I was sitting in the dining hall by myself, trying to eat a measly salad since there was nothing else agreeable for me to eat that day,” Steron said. “After about five minutes, I knew I had to do something about it, not just for myself, but for all the girls at Saint Mary’s that want and need more options for their food sensitivities.”

Steron decided to establish Dining Hall Divas, a club for Saint Mary’s students suffering from celiac disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and food allergies.

“This club is for those who share common [lists] of food that they can and cannot eat,” she said.

Steron and the Divas will be working closely with the dining hall staff to ensure the needs of students with special dietary requirements are met consistently. They will also be communicating with the College’s food providers to ensure ingredient information is accurate and clear.

Steron said she hopes to program tutorials for the dining hall staff focusing on basic food safety, covering topics such as changing gloves after working with allergy-triggering foods.

In the long term, she hopes to also expand options available to those with restricted diets.

“I really wanted to start this club up because I’m one of those girls who has a hard time finding something substantial enough to eat in the dining hall without having a bad reaction to it,” Steron said.

The club has established a website to keep students informed on the group’s work and the progress of dietary accommodations at the College.

“We have a website for the Dining Hall Divas, which is linked to the Saint Mary’s page, where any student, prospective or current, can see the strides we are making for a more gluten-free environment here,” she said.

Steron said the club has met with dining hall staff three times and has already drawn out some possible improvements.

Interested students can contact Steron at mstero01@saintmarys.edu.