It’s that time of year. I’m volunteering and my youngest is going to Vacation Bible School (a.k.a. VBS) at church this week. Emma, my gluten-free girl, is actually in a Summer Academy this week so I won’t be busily trying to duplicate the sometimes complex snacks that are made at VBS for the kids. But I have done it for a few years — just enough for me to give you a few tips on how to handle the situation.
The kids LOVE the snacks!
You can’t avoid them. No matter how much you do crafts, games, sing, and dance at VBS — one of the highlights for the kids is the snack! You should have seen them running for the snack table Monday. As a result, it can leave a gluten-free child feeling out of place and in some cases jealous. So I am just saying you can’t “poo poo” the snack. Parents should take snacks seriously and figure out how to feed their celiac child a good gluten-free substitute.
Don’t count on the organizers to have a gluten-free option
Organizations in this situation can’t always be accommodating to the gluten-free diet. I know they need to deal with the peanut allergies, but the gluten one is a toughie. The food team is usually comprised of volunteers who form an assembly line making snacks for 400+ kids and the volunteers. While I would love it if someone did have a gluten-free version of the treat waiting for my daughter, I know it’s not realistic (and could get contaminated). How could I possibly expect an identical gluten-free version of an “ice cream cone” which is actually a cupcake inside a cone. That example was a few years back. It was a great treat, but why would anyone at church make one gluten-free cupcake just for us? The answer is, they probably are not…so you need to get busy.
My first year I jumped in and volunteered to do snacks. The decision to do it was purely selfish. The volunteer job helped me understand the week’s menu which gave me a leg-up on gluten-free preparation.
My next suggestion — either get creative or practical, you can’t lose. Have fun with the suggested snack idea. In some cases you might make it just bizarre enough to pass as a VBS snack (have you seen the funky suggested recipes that are sent with VBS curriculum?). I would go practical if you have a picky child. Emma would be way better with a snack she liked than a weird snack of funky ingredients that she would never eat together — even if it’s gluten free.
Then just pass the snack to your child when their class comes for snack time. Sure it might look a little different, but it likely is close enough to get the job done and satisfy your child.
I have been out of the food area for a few years now and have moved onto singing instead. But I know I have established a relationship with the organizers. They know who I am and why I’m asking all of these food questions and they give me a lot of feedback. I highly recommend the same for you– get active, ask questions and be helpful! Could go a long way!