From the time she arrived at the University of Mary Washington, Sophomore Mary Kate Magdycz struggled to find food she could eat at Seacobeck due to her severe wheat allergy.
“I even considered transferring to JMU or the University of Richmond, just because of the food,” she said.
Magdycz suffers from Celiac Disease, a condition that requires people to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, prohibiting any wheat, barley, rye, oats or modified food starch. If Celiac sufferers don’t follow such a diet, they can experience a host of painful reactions, including lactose intolerance, organ disorder and severe bowel gas.
According to Seacobeck manager Sandy Williams, last year marked the first time UMW added menu items at Seacobeck for students with the disease.
Magdycz said she was happy to find a more accommodating menu, but there were still setbacks.
“Before, to get the gluten-free food, you’d have to go way into the kitchen, wait up to 30 minutes and sometimes food wasn’t even available,” she said. “Either that, or eat salad all the time.”
According to sophomore Rebecca Pomerantz, who also suffers from wheat allergies, availability of gluten-free foods wasn’t the only problem.
“Last year, when we were having to go into the kitchen, some of the chefs who were on duty didn’t understand what gluten free means,” she said. “Now, it’s a big relief to be guaranteed that dinner won’t have me sick for the rest of the week. Having the normal stress of school is enough and doesn’t need to be coupled with getting sick or being worried about getting sick.”
Freshman Martha Siegmund is sympathetic to her friends who suffer from wheat allergies and are unable to eat regular Seacobeck fare.
“Seaco can cause enough discomfort as it is,” Siegmund said. “I’d hate to be allergic to all the foods with no other options.”
This year all that has changed.
Seacobeck added a gluten-free section with items similar to regular diet choices, as well as other diet selections. According to Williams, these foods are immediately available in the dining hall, serving over 25 students with special dining needs.
“This semester has been unbelievably wonderful for me simply because I don’t have to worry,” Pomerantz said. “Compared to last year, I’ve been really liberated. Now with the food out of the kitchen and some similar tasty options, I can get my meal just as quickly as anyone else. Best of all, now I can eat and chat it up with my friends.”
Magdycz says she has no more complaints about dining at Seacobeck.
“The food here is great,” she said. “Probably just as good everything else that’s normally prepared.”
Along with the positive feedback from students, Seacobeck manager Sandy Williams is pleased with the success of the menu additions and is satisfied with its utilization and consumption by students.