Santa Cruz Celiac Support Group

How UCSC Handles Special Diets

Santa Cruz is home to the beautiful campus of the University of California Santa Cruz, situated in the meadows and redwood forests above the city. For those on a gluten-free diet considering living on campus, here are some links to information about their policy on food allergies.

This page has general information about special dietary needs. Note that they say, “While we work hard to avoid cross-contact, we are not an allergen-free facility. If you have allergy concerns or need assistance, please speak with a manager. They will support you in having a safe dining experience.” That page has a link to contact a dining hall manager to discuss special needs.

Most of the dining halls offer a number of gluten-free options at each meal. To get a feel for what you might find on the menu, their online menus have common allergens and special diets marked for each item; Select the dining hall you are interested in, and you can check different dates for about a week out. Note that they don’t offer a great variety. I didn’t see any gluten-free baked goods or breads, only one GF dessert (GF Rice Crispy bars; offered only one day), and no GF pizza or pasta (but they do have GF marinara sauce). For breakfast, expect eggs, some kind of meat, oatmeal, and, if you’re lucky, potatoes. For lunch and dinner, they usually offer a couple of different soups (same ones for both meals) or something such as a taco bar with some GF offerings. “Allergen-free chicken thighs”, rice, and vegetables seem to be staples for gluten-free lunch and dinner.

The following is an account of the experience of a student at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2010. Some of this information may be out of date, but it gives you a flavor of one student’s experiences.

Two months before starting UC Santa Cruz my doctor said I was severely anemic. After blood tests, iron infusions and an endoscopy I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I had a 7-day meal plan, what would I eat?

Fortunately, the dining hall manager understands celiac, cross contamination and hidden wheat. He said every year more and more students request gluten free foods. Crown College is the only dining hall with a GF lunch and dinner entrée every day (except on weekends when it’s closed). Breakfast has a lot of naturally GF foods—eggs, meat, fruit, yogurt. Food is labeled gluten free (or vegan, dairy free, nut free, shellfish).

The variety and quality of the food is similar to other food in the dining hall. It’s not uncommon for non-celiac students to choose the GF entrée if it’s something they like. On weekends the open dining halls have gluten free breads. I just choose foods that are naturally gluten free.

We bought a mini-fridge and I try to stock my dorm room with things I can eat. Trader Joe’s rice noodle soup has been helpful. I’ve been told the Staff of Life has lots of gluten free dinners, but it’s not as easy to get there. Sometimes eating GF gets old.