Well my baby– diagnosed with celiac disease at 15 months old — is heading off to high school this year! Between planning for school and already having started high school soccer, the discussions about gluten-free accommodations have begun. My goal is to be able to partially-to-mostly remove myself from any questions or concerns about her food — because she needs to learn how to speak up for herself. After all, she’ll be leaving for college in 4 years! That isn’t that far away!
Friday, Emma and I met up with our liaison with the Anoka-Hennepin nutrition department and Emma’s new cafeteria supervisor to find out what needed to happen to ensure she got gluten-free meals. Our district has a gluten-free menu (thankfully) and it has come a long way. But I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for this coming year with a new school and the frustrating year she had last year with school meals.
Last year was a disappointment for Emma, between being gluten free and having limited options in that regard, the federal government then tacked on more across-the-board nutrition restrictions. She could have all the fruits and vegetables she wanted, but couldn’t have cheese on her bunless burger because it was too much protein (for example). Although that mandate changed during the school year and cheese was eventually allowed back on the burgers, when the announcement originally happened last fall, she was sort of done with hot lunch. She deemed it not enough food for the hassle she went through to pick it up. So she brought her lunch for the rest of the year.
Back to present day….after touring the cafeteria on Friday, learning the process of where to pick up her meals, and finding out what foods are on the menu, she is much more positive about the experience coming up this fall at Blaine High School. I would recommend going through this process with all parents and students. Before the new school year starts (especially at a new school) you should do a touch base on the menu options, and any changes that may have occurred over the summer. The LA Times just did an article on feeding celiac kids at school. It also reminded parents that they shouldn’t wait until the first day to discuss food allergies with school staff.
The soccer program will be its own beast — I guess, just like any travelling soccer program. The girls had a big carb loading event Monday night in which I brought gluten-free noodles and cream sauce..I was a little uneasy about it all. I became alarmed during a soccer meeting when I was talking to one of the organizers a few weeks back. When I told her Emma was gluten free and I would be bringing gluten-free noodles for her, she responded “Cute“.
That was never a term I would have expected to hear. I did explain to her that actually it wasn’t cute and Emma gets really sick if she has gluten because she has celiac disease. So I brought the noodles in a crockpot and the sauce in a Corningware dish. And as I was getting my act together to serve the gluten free noodles and cream sauce (so no one contaminated it). But the first person who went through the line grabbed the ladle and contaminated the sauce by touching the regular noodles on her plate. That was that. The gluten-free noodles were still okay and Emma had told me she didn’t want sauce on her noodles anyway, so I didn’t worry too much about it. The reality is that I needed to be on my toes because hungry soccer girls go through that line fast!
As a side note, I served gluten free noodles to four people, three of which seemed to just be watching their gluten intake versus dealing with celiac like Emma. They all put the regular sauce on it with no hesitation. But I was happy to serve up the noodles. I wanted to get rid of them. So I guess it was a mild success. Emma got to eat safely and with all the other kids!
Letting go as a parent of a child with this disease is difficult, but I won’t be there in college for her so I need to let go a little more. Since High School Soccer is so different from everything else she’s done it will definitely be a new experience: riding the bus to games, getting food on the road etc….I will keep you posted on how it worked for us later this fall.