College – Navigating Shared Housing and Kitchens
Gluten-free (GF) dining hall options may be the first food-related issue that comes to mind when heading off to college. But any college student knows that dining hall hours aren’t the only times food comes into play. Whether it’s for a late night snack or a quick breakfast in your room, it is also essential that foods you store in your room or prepare in a shared kitchen stay safely gluten-free.
Tips and Guidelines
Sharing a fridge and/or pantry space with a non-gluten-free roommate.
- Make sure your roommate understands the seriousness of the need to keep your foods gluten-free, and of how even a tiny amount of gluten can cause problems.
- Ask them to wrap any gluten-containing foods that will be in the fridge very thoroughly, to avoid possibility of gluten-containing crumbs or spills getting into the fridge and potentially onto your GF foods.
- Have your own set of any utensils and cookware you will be using: plate, bowl, silverware, skillet, spatula, cutting board, etc. Also have a couple of Tupperware-type containers for storing leftovers. Choose a notable color that’s different from anything your roommate might have, and/or write your name and “Gluten-Free” on top.
- Keep all these food storage, prep, and eating supplies in a closable storage container. Store this container on the top shelf of a cupboard or pantry, and away from any gluten-containing foods or crumbs.
- Clarify with your roommate which half of the fridge or pantry will be for who. Label your shelf “Gluten-Free.” The more you can keep your items isolated, the less chance of error or cross-contamination. If the fridge is big enough, it’s best to have your GF items in the upper section, to prevent risk of gluten-containing spills or crumbs falling onto your items.
- If you’re going to have condiments in your fridge (mustard, mayo, ketchup), use squeezable versions. That way there is no risk of double-dipping utensils. Make sure others know not to touch the tips of squeeze bottles to their gluten-containing bread.
Using a common, shared kitchen.
- Always assume that any surfaces or cookware could be cross-contaminated with gluten. Thoroughly clean any surfaces that could come in contact with your food. Bring and use your own cookware and utensils (see above).
- Shared toasters always need to be avoided due to high risk of cross-contamination.
- Remember that things like colanders can’t be sufficiently washed. If pasta is something you’ll be wanting to fix, add a colander to your stash of supplies.
- Don’t use any dish towels or sponges that might be in the kitchen, since they could contain gluten from previous uses. Stick with paper towel, or bring your own dish towels.
This article has been assessed and approved by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.