Emma my soon-to-be 7th grader is just days away from the new school year. While the school organizes an annual open house for Meet the Teacher(s), no one does this for our cafeteria — at least not much beyond putting money into the lunch account.
I am talking about quality one-on-one time to go through the menu and look at new products for the upcoming school year.
Yesterday we had ours. Every year, Emma and I usually meet with our head cafeteria lady and a staff member from our school district’s nutrition department. I really like that our district has an employee dedicated to special diets. So she’s the one who attends the meeting. Unfortunately while she couldn’t attend yesterday, we were still able to meet with Diane who is on site and in charge of the middle school kitchen.
Why meet annually?
Here’s what I like about it.
- It puts Emma back on everyone’s radar
- Diane gets to see her again (because Emma has grown a bit over the summer) so Emma gets recognized
- The kitchen staff is thinking about which items are gluten free
- And I got to ask both Diane and our liaison with the nutrition department (via email) to do a cross contamination refresher course
How the meeting went
So Emma is returning to this Middle School this year, so this was more of a refresher. We combed through the menu and the new items they had in stock. Example: The kitchen will be making its own taco seasoning this year. So Diane showed me the recipe: all pure and safe spices, except one that had an extra generic “spices” labeled on it. I have the district nutritionist looking into the sources of “spices” on that one. There were a few other new products I flagged as well.
I was excited to see the sweet potato fries are gluten free. They are a new potato option for the kids this year. YUM!
We also gave them a few stickers Emma received at celiac camp (see right). They can use them to label her strictly gluten-free products. Emma also got to pick out her first week’s menu.
The meeting went really well and I highly recommend doing this on a regular basis.
New School? The Meeting is a bit different
If you are going to a new school, this meeting is longer and much more detailed and all of the parties (mentioned above) must be in attendance. You will talk about utensils, cross contamination training, training on what foods are gluten free, how the student will get her food (do you want her to go to a different area or just go down the food line as usual?), who will be her designated person to prep and hand off her food…and that’s just a few off the top of my head.
I did write about this experience in June of 2010 as we prepared to send her to middle school that fall. You can read more about that, here.
Top tips on gluten free school menus:
- Contact your district nutrition office first to see if they have a gluten free menu, and if not how you can be of assistance to get one started.
- Meet with them and your cafeteria supervisor to make sure the effort you all have put in ends up with a gluten free meal on the tray (in other words, discussing her illness, the diet, gluten free foods, cross contamination, and process of student getting the lunch).
- The kitchen should be supplied with items that help them keep the food safe: colanders, utensils, cutting boars– only for gluten free. That’s a start. Good luck!