How BSM accommodates gluten-free students

Senior Riley O’Connor discusses what it’s like to be gluten-free, and how BSM provides special meals for these gluten-free students.


Kristina Brown

Senior Riley O’Connor was diagnosed with Celiac disease as a child, but has found gluten-free alternatives for lunch at Taher.

Riley O'Connor, Staff Writer

Students of all shapes and sizes… and diets fill the BSM hallways. Some restrain themselves to a life of dairy, meat, sugar-free diets and some keep themselves restricted to only Chipotle, Punch, and Noodles and Company cravings. Although there are students of so many different tastes, the most interesting of all are the students who search day in and day out for the gluten-free options available at Taher.

BSM sophomore Henry Witterschein lives with celiac disease. He has been living with these dietary restrictions for the past three years now. “Being gluten free is hard, but it has been easier to adjust than I thought it would be,” Witterschein said.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder involving damage in the small intestine due to the consumption of gluten. There are many levels one can have of celiac disease and the results of eating it go along with how severe your reaction is towards it. This disease is hereditary, and it’s not uncommon to develop symptoms as an adult or young adult.  

The most difficult thing about being gluten free is dealing with friends choosing restaurants that they want to go to, and not knowing if I will be able to eat anything that they have on the menu.”

— Henry Wittershein

There are many students who either choose to eat this way or are diagnosed with an intolerance or allergy to it. I have been this way my whole life. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was two years old and luckily have never had to make drastic adjustments to what I eat because I’ve been doing it for so long. Unfortunately, some people learn they have this disease much later and it forces them to completely change their diet with little preparation.  

Luckily, in my own experiences living with celiac disease, I have had a lot of food options. Over the years, food companies have become much more accommodating to “my kind of people.” You can now find a gluten free pizza at almost any grocery store, and I have no problem at school finding an alternative lunch if there is something I can’t eat.

It used to be more difficult to find a restaurant that could fit the needs of a gluten allergic person, especially in the realm of Italian cuisine because the only meal I could eat was a salad, and I got sick of them very fast. I remember I would go on vacations and have to pack my own loaf of bread because the grocery stores wouldn’t sell gluten free loaves most of the time. Although it is still a challenge at times, it has become a much more widely known allergy.

Junior Claire Van Der Heide, Junior, has recently been told that she also has celiac disease. “It was hard to adjust from eating all kinds of bread, pizza, and even donuts to not being able to have any of that,” Van Der Heide said.

Whenever the chefs of BSM are cooking up something that is gluten friendly, they always do a really good job of making a gluten-free version so that we gluten intolerant individuals don’t feel excluded. The Taher lunch staff knows of about five students attending BSM, but only about two students communicate with the staff about their dietary needs and restrictions. “Some kids will come talk to me in the morning requesting a gluten free meal for lunch, and I’ll prepare one pretty easily. Our food supplier has gluten-free food, so we have easy access to gluten-free ingredients,” Taher chef Kameko Graves said.

There is a process of preparation for the gluten-free individuals when dining out. Looking up restaurant menus online, preparing bag lunches from home, and consistently being around people who don’t have a gluten-free diet can be overwhelming. “The most difficult thing about being gluten free is dealing with friends choosing restaurants that they want to go to, and not knowing if I will be able to eat anything that they have on the menu,” Witterschein said.  

I think BSM does an impressive job making gluten free options available for me and other gluten allergic people. On a day-to-day basis, I can go to the Taher staff and they will always have a plate of gluten free noodles, tacos, or whatever lunch is being served that day.

Being gluten free anywhere has become much easier because of all the various restaurants, schools, and stores that have helped accommodate this allergy or choice of lifestyle. There are so many resources available nowadays. I personally would like to voice a special thank you to BSM for providing gluten free options to people like me.