When Carly Silverwood (MSB ’14) toured Georgetown as a prospective student in the spring of 2010, a dietitian mentioned a gluten-free student group she could join, but by the time she enrolled in the university in the fall, no such group existed.

So, she decided to start her own.

Gluten Free Foodies held its first meeting on Feb. 27 and currently has seven members, according to Silverwood. The group aims to form a supportive community for students who choose to follow a gluten-free diet or who have medical conditions forcing them to do so, as well as advocate for improving gluten-free options from Georgetown University Dining Services.

“Members enjoy one another’s company, eat meals, share information and advice, create recipes, advocate, et cetera” Silverwood wrote in an email. “I know that I would have loved to have this group’s support at the beginning of my freshman year in college.”

According to Silverwood, one in 133 Americans has Celiac disease, an allergy to gluten.

Jillian Ugol (MSB ’12) was diagnosed with the condition the day before she got to Georgetown last fall and faced many challenges living as a college student without gluten.

“Often, I felt like I was battling this thing myself, trying to learn on my own because most of the people around me could not really relate. I cannot begin to tell you how nice it is to meet people that know exactly how I feel and what I go through every day for every meal,” Ugol wrote in an email.

Georgetown offers a gluten-free refrigerator and appliances, according to Silverwood, but Ugol said that every person in Gluten Free Foodies has had at least one allergic reaction from eating at O’Donovan Hall, generally as a result of cross-contamination. The group aims to advocate for improved university facilities as well as a wider gluten-free selection at The Corp’s locations.

Other upcoming events include handing out samples from gluten-free food provider Udi’s at Relay For Life, participating in an effort by nonprofit group 1 in 133 to create the largest ever gluten-free cake to draw the attention of lawmakers and the Food and Drug Administration;  efforts to mandate gluten-free labeling, and attending group dinner outings, according to Silverwood.

Silverwood is currently an intern at Udi’s, an experience that inspired her to form the group. The company offered to provide free food for events if Georgetown had an organized gluten-free group, according to Ugol. A representative from Udi’s is flying into D.C. to distribute the samples at Relay For Life.

Gluten Free Foodies has also been working with the existing student group Gastronomes, according to Silverwood.

Silverwood said that she is optimistic that the group’s size and influence will increase in the future.

“We expect that our group’s numbers will grow as awareness of gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance and Celiac disease increases,” she wrote. “As our numbers increase, we will have a stronger voice to effect change in the dining hall. By coming together to compile our concerns, we can better work with dining services to implement change.”

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