Gluten-Free at Columbia University

March 26th, 2007

Many of you are familiar with the Columbia Celiac Disease Research Center–this is on the uptown medical campus at 168th St. in NYC. Columbia College is downtown of this–at 116th St. and Broadway in NYC. 

Columbia College of Columbia University–my alma mater!  I was in the second coed class and graduated in 1988.  Some of the best years of my life were spent there and I sure hope my kids go there! The good news for my daughter is: COLUMBIA IS A GREAT PLACE TO BE GLUTEN-FREE!!!! Boy was I happy to learn of the care that gluten-free students get at Columbia! 

First of all, the person to contact is Ina Tsagarakis, a registered dietitian who knows all about celiac disease.  You can reach her at                         or at (212) 854-4699. She works with all incoming freshmen as well as upperclassman who are gluten-free.

For the incoming students, she orients them to the dining services at Columbia as well as to the local food markets (such as Morton Williams across the street from campus, Whole Foods at Columbus Circle and Fairway Market, a little bit uptown from campus) that sell gluten-free products.  She even teaches those who need it how to read the labels on food packaging (some young celiacs have never had to do that as their parents always did that for them).

She introduces students to the chef, Ray Prete, who is also very knowledgeable about celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  (Unlike most schools in the area, by the way, Columbia has its own self-run dining services.) Anyway, Ray prepares special gluten-free meals for the students twice a day (for brunch/lunch and dinner).  And check out a Sample gluten-free menu from Columbia’s dining services – you can look up the gf menus online everyday and you can even pre-order a special-request dish!

Ray not only prepares an interesting variety of gluten-free meals for the students, but he is also very accessible.  You can always ask to see him and talk to him about what meals you’d like.  You can reach him

Basically, the many gluten-free items served in the main dining hall, John Jay, are marked as gluten-free with a special GF icon.  The food is prepared in a separate area of the kitchen by specially-educated staff, and sent up on different trays and pans.  There is a separate serving spoon for each item.

As if all the gluten-free offerings on the menu aren’t enough, the gluten-free college students have access to their own toaster and microwave, and refrigerator and freezer (which are loaded with gluten-free food).  They can order things to take with them as snacks.  This private food area is located in the service area of the cafeteria. They can also have special gluten-free sandwiches made to eat in the dining hall or to go.

All of the dormitories at Columbia allow a refrigerator, and many are suite-style with shared kitchens and microwaves. In addition to the main dining area, John Jay, there are five other smaller eating establishments: Ferris Booth, Café 212, Carlton Lounge, Uris Deli, and Lenfest. Here you can get some gluten-free items such as fruit cups and salads, but there are not yet the labels on everything as to their gluten-free status (there will be by Fall 2007).

While Columbia is a great place to be gluten-free, make sure that you remember to go to the many, many great restaurants in Manhattan that also offer great gluten-free fare!

John Jay


Getting Started Gluten-Free at College

March 16th, 2007

Checkout a very useful part of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Program website called Celiac Disease 101 for College Students with tips for parents and students including your rights as a celiac college student, dealing with dining services, how to stock an off-campus kitchen, dealing with gluten-free food issues with roomates, etc.


March 14th, 2007

Hello students! Welcome to the gluten-free college blog — a place to explore various US colleges’ gluten-free dining services. Please tell us about your gluten-free experiences on-campus, and where to eat gluten-free off-campus!

N.B. The colleges are divided into different categories by state.

This blog is brought to you by The Gluten-Free Guide to New York. New York is a GREAT place to go to college and to enjoy gluten-free foods! Just checkout the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness program’s list of New York-area restaurants, the Celiac Chicks, and The Gluten-Free Guide to New York. There are so many gluten-free friendly restaurants, the only problem you’ll have is deciding where to eat!!