Mariah Dougherty

Mariah helps others find ease with dietary struggles at Iowa State

Mariah Dougherty was diagnosed with celiac disease at two years old. Since she has known about the disease for most of her life, she understands what to expect about gluten foods and dietary restrictions.

Before deciding on a college to attend, Mariah had to think about whether she could eat at each one.

“Other schools said they ‘have a salad bar’, but I can’t live on that,” Mariah said.

She researched Iowa State and met with a dietitian who told her of the many dietary options on campus. She found out the Union Drive Community Center (UDCC) has a special diet kitchen and students can request to live in housing close to it. Mariah feels Iowa State does a great job offering options for people and believes it is important for others like her to know this is available.

Mariah decided to major in dietetics because she feels she has the right background.

“My life always centers around food,” she said. “At a very early age, I had to watch what I ate. Being a dietetics major, I have that background where I can empower children about diet.”

Mariah Dougherty is co-president of Cy’s Gluten Free Friends club, an on-campus club promoting celiac awareness and community outreach. Mariah first joined the club as a freshman in 2013, but it was very small and unknown. 

“I took it upon myself, with co-president Brandon, to rebrand and get the word out,” she said. “Because the club deserves it.”

Cy’s Gluten Free Friends made their first appearance at Club Fest this fall, which greatly helped students become more aware of the club. It now has 20 active members, and has started annual events such as Making Tracks for Celiacs and the Teal Pumpkin Project. The club helps build friendships by holding many bonding activities throughout the year including pizza and movie nights, bowling, and social events, as well as awareness events. Before coming to Iowa State, Mariah only knew one person, her grandma, diagnosed with celiac. Now at Iowa State, she has a supportive group with the same dietary struggles.

Mariah knows some people think being gluten free is a myth, but wants many people to learn about it.

“I want to continue club awareness,” she said. “I want to be the flow of information so others don’t lead astray. Because gluten free is not just a fad diet, it’s a medical issue.”