Francis McFadden,the chef and assistant professor of nutrition who manages the Atrium Cafe in Grover Center, seasons raw chicken during a food-preparation demonstration for nutrition students.

Photographer: Erica McKeehen

Featured Stories

Nutrition students develop menu solutions for chronic disease

Gluten-free meals focus spotlight on National Celiac Disease Awareness Month

How would you cope if typical restaurant fare such as bread, pasta or even an occasional cookie made you seriously ill?

Ohio University nutrition students want to provide some ideas, so they are designing a gluten-free menu for Thursday, May 12, for the Atrium Café in Grover Center. The facility, a food-preparation lab that doubles as a public eatery, is operated by the College of Health Sciences and Wellness.

Inspired by May being National Celiac Disease Awareness Month, as designated by the nonprofit American Celiac Disease Alliance, the students wanted to come up with meal options that could help those with gluten intolerance enjoy eating out again. The autoimmune disorder affects 1 in 133 Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health, damaging the small intestine and interfering with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. The disease often goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, since symptoms vary widely and can change as an individual ages.
Eating at restaurants and finding safe snack choices can be a challenge for gluten-restricted individuals, said Alex Borsuk, a senior dietetic student helping with the project. She added that the average American dines out up to five times per week.

“A lot of people have misconceptions about gluten-free food,” said Borsuk, who herself has been diagnosed with celiac. “The menu offered at the Atrium Café will not only be nutritious, but delicious.” 

Chelsea Rambo, a nutrition graduate student who is also helping plan the gluten-free menu, is excited about celiac disease being highlighted by the place where she works.

“It can be really disheartening to walk into a restaurant and have limited options,” said Rambo, who has also been diagnosed with celiac.

Francis McFadden, the assistant professor and chef who manages the café, said the facility is offering the special menu May 12 not only for those who require a gluten-free diet, but for others who may want to give it a try. He plans to make the recipes that are served in the café that day available to customers.