Senior Luke Bunkers bites a rice cake like an it’s an Olympic gold medal outside the Ballas entrance. (Ryan Flavin)
Senior Luke Bunkers bites a rice cake like an it’s an Olympic gold medal outside the Ballas entrance.

Ryan Flavin

Life is sweet without wheat

Senior reflects on living life gluten-free

April 16, 2021

Luke Bunkers walked into Freshman Odyssey nervous to meet his new classmates. He was having a great time making new friends, and then it was lunch time. The flashbacks started to come to him. He didn’t want to have a repeat of grade school, the words Luker the puker started to circle his mind as he inched his way slowly through the lunch line.

Luke Bunkers suffers from an eating disorder called Celiac Disease. He was often picked on by many of his classmates in grade school, for something he couldn’t control, or understand.

“Growing up kids used to call me ‘Luker the puker’ because I threw up so much,” Bunkers said. “Eventually my mom took me to the doctor. They knocked me out and put a camera down my throat to see what was wrong. We found out I had Celiac Disease.”

Celiac Disease is an immune disease in which people can’t eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye and barley.

“When I was a kid I was literally skin and bones because I wasn’t getting enough protein,” Bunkers said. “I started to figure out all the foods I could eat that would give me enough nutrition, it was challenging at first.”

Many schools offer gluten free sections to their lunch and De Smet is no different offering multiple gluten free options such as grilled chicken, vegetables, starches, and they only use olive oil to cook, no butter.

“You want to please everyone as much as possible, and we don’t want to put everyone on a gluten free diet,” Head Chef Scott Phillips said. “When we do the sports banquets, the auction, and any other service, almost all of the food is exclusively gluten free, unless they choose pasta.”

Celiac Disease affects 1% of the average healthy American. This means that three million US citizens suffer from it, and 97% are undiagnosed.

“A lot of the kids’ parents will call at the beginning of the year and tell me about their son’s specific food needs,” Phillips said. “We are able to work out any food allergy or concern a parent might have.”

In today’s day and age stores sell almost everything gluten free, including bread and pizza. The problem is that these foods usually cost up to double the amount of a normal item.

“I think it is very important for De Smet to offer gluten free options,” Bunkers said. “ It gives kids like me the option to buy lunch, because at my grade school they didn’t have many if any gluten free options. So I appreciate that De Smet has made it such a priority.”

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