Pyle Middle School Sets Up Unique Gluten-Free Section In Dining Hall

by Aaron Kraut — September 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm 739 2 Comments

MCPS middle school lunch menuFor the past six years, Dipu Ghosh’s daughter made her own lunch because the gluten-free options in her school cafeteria were few and not easy to identify.

After a meeting this month with the director of MCPS’ food program, that situation is improving. The seventh-grader, two other students and their parents worked with MCPS to create a gluten-free section of food in the Pyle Middle School cafeteria.

It might not seem like a big deal to prepare a lunch to bring to school every day, but Ghosh said the availability of gluten-free cafeteria food actually means a lot to the kids who need it.

“They feel left out. Everyone else has trays and has options,” Ghosh said. “This is a big thing.”

On Monday, the school cafeteria started providing gluten-free rice and part of a service line will be dedicated to gluten-free food, an important shift for a lunch menu that offers gluten-filled staples such as pizza, chicken coated in wheat and whole wheat rolls.

Marla Caplon, director of the MCPS Division of food and nutrition services, said it’s the school system’s goal to accommodate the needs of all students, no matter their preference.

Gluten is a protein complex found in wheat, rye and barley. A gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease. Fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten-free and have been offered in school cafeterias for years. But finding other options, while they existed, was never the easiest process, Ghosh said.

MCPS provides a list of foods with allergens and food sensitivities. Ghosh said finding variety was difficult.

“Over the years there have been several questions about providing items that are gluten-free,” Caplon said. “Quite honestly, they’re not very good quality and they’re very expensive. We talked about the items we have that are gluten-free and we got a really good response.”

The change at Pyle won’t mean new products in the cafeteria, but instead better accessibility. Caplon said the cafeteria will advertise a gluten-free section of hamburgers, tacos, corn chips and, of course, fruits and vegetables. Fish and gluten-free chicken nuggets were also mentioned in the Sept. 18 meeting.

Ghosh said he reached out to parents on Pyle’s email list and heard from about 20 parents interested in the program. The next step is to promote it through the school and see how many students take to the gluten-free foods.

Caplon said she’s going to make the same change at Cabin John Middle School, where a parent had similar concerns.

“We want the students who follow a gluten-free diet to know where to go,” Caplon said. “We want them to get lunch so they can be well-nourished and feel eager to eat.”

  • Amie

    This is great news. As the Executive Director of New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, I can relate, as my daughter and I both have Celiac. We have a number of home made healthy plant-based entree recipes on our website at http://www.healthyschoolfood.org/recipes.htm and though some contain gluten, there are several without, and all can be easily modified to contain no gluten. If the MCPS would like information on how to make the recipes gluten-free, we are happy to do that at no charge. Our ethnic recipes help to meet the US Dietary Guidelines in that they contain no cholesterol, are low in fat and high in fiber. In addition, they can be used to help learn about food from around the world and different cultures. All the recipes are available free on our website. They can be used as the protein component or as a vegetable component, since beans and tofu can count for either category.

    Amie Hamlin

  • Amie

    I forgot to mention, rice is naturally gluten-free. I wanted to clarify because “gluten-free rice” could sound as if some rice is not gluten-free. All rice is gluten-free. It is possible, of course, that someone could make a mixture of rice and other grains that is not gluten-free.


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