THON Now Offering Dancers a Gluten-Free Option
With 708 dancers standing for all 46 hours of THON, it can be tough to serve all of the dancers’ unique needs, whatever they may be, and feeding them is no exception. With the nearly infinite amount of dietary preferences and restrictions, getting all the dancers the exact food they need can be tricky. To complicate the process even more, all of the food served to dancers by HOS is donated, adding another barrier to accommodation.
In the past, any dancer with dietary restrictions had only the option of eating around their needs, or bringing their own food to be stored and then re-prepared by HOS. But thanks in part to the efforts of Akila Shanmugaraj, a HOS captain with Celiac disease, THON now offers a gluten-free option at all of their meals for both captains and dancers.
“A lot of our donations are carb-based, so we worked this year to get some gluten-free donations,” HOS Director Jen Mills said. Mills explained that the biggest thing THON was able to do was secure enough gluten-free bread to allow dancers to swap out normal bread for a gluten-free substitute, allowing someone with a gluten allergy to be able to eat any type of sandwich that would normally cause problems. According to Mills, Shanmugaraj helped lead the push for gluten free options, as she and another HOS captain both suffer from Celiac.
As with previous years, anyone with a restriction requiring more than just what THON can provide is welcomed to bring their own food, which is stored before THON and then reheated or prepared as necessary for based on that restriction. Unfortunately, for things like dietary preferences, like being a vegetarian, the only option at this point is eating around the meals provided, mostly due to a lack of space.
“It’s a little bit difficult when it’s not a restriction because we don’t have that much storage space, so we encourage people to be bringing in meals throughout the weekend through their DRCMs,” Mills said. “We do try to be accommodating and for vegetarians we do try to have a vegetarian option at every meal and we let them know ahead of time that if that’s something they’re concerned about they can ask us what their options are.”
While obviously there is no perfect solution for such a complex problem, the outlook seems to be good in terms of being able to cater to the needs of every dancer. If this year’s changes are a sign of things to come, the future is bright for those students who want to dance with dietary restrictions.