Against the Grain
When Susannah Faulkner ’11 came to Ithaca College, she knew she was interested in politics. She didn’t know that a food allergy would lead to a passion for activism.
“As a freshman, I came to Ithaca having a severe intolerance to gluten,” Faulkner recalls. “Eating in the dining hall is such a social experience, and it was really hard for me because I’d have to bring bread into the dining hall and worry about cross-contamination.”
Through her frustration, Faulkner saw an opportunity to help other students. She successfully ran for Student Government Association senator for her class.
“My main platform was promoting celiac awareness and food allergy awareness on campus, except I literally had no idea it would turn into my calling,” she says.
Faulkner worked with IC staff to change the menu, with supportive professors to encourage her along the way. “My academic advisor, Kelly Dietz in the politics department, was the most incredible mentor a young, passionate, driven student could ask for. Any time I threw a crazy idea at her, she would tell me how to make it happen.”
In November 2009, the gluten-free pantry opened in the Campus Center Dining Hall. “Because Ithaca is such an inclusive community, it’s so welcoming, and it’s so open to change, I was able to put forth this idea and actually see results,” she says.
Faulkner’s political path did not end there. As a senior, she was elected vice president of campus affairs and cofounded the Food Allergy Awareness Club. Thanks to her efforts, there is now a gluten-free pantry in every dining hall on the Ithaca College campus. “I can’t imagine doing this anywhere else. I was in the perfect place at the perfect time in the perfect community to make a change that was really needed.”
After graduation, Faulkner was recruited by Udi’s Gluten Free Foods as their university outreach specialist. The passion she found at IC has become her full-time career—leading a gluten-free revolution on campuses across the country.
“I work with interns who remind me so much of myself during my time at Ithaca,” she says. “They’re this little army of gluten-free warriors.”
This August, Faulkner moved to England to help launch Udi's in UK and study for a master's degree in public policy at the London School of Economics.
This spring, Udi's named Ithaca College the seventh most gluten-free friendly campus.