Gluten-free and lactose-free products
Our lunch program
All students participate in our lunch program with the exception of our youngest students with severe allergies. Their parents may bring in food for their lunches, and the school nurse takes care of preparing this food - from assembling a gluten-free corn taco to baking a lactose-free pizza in the oven. Playing short-order cook is a lot of work for the nurse, who also works the cafeteria making sure our young students are eating food on their plates.
If students are old enough to take responsibility of their allergies – sometime in middle school - they resume participation in school lunch and simply avoid food items that cause reactions. For example, we serve hummus on our salad bar and place bread with sesame seeds in our bread box, even though several students have sesame allergies.
Working with allergies
Among parents, teachers, kitchen staff, and the nurse, my school will work together to make sure student allergies in the 2010-2011 year are properly and effectively addressed. We already know of new students with some severe allergies, including tuna-fish and gluten allergies. Although we aren’t planning to remove these items from our cafeteria (and in fact, it would be practically impossible in the case of gluten, found in wheat), we will work with these students to see how they may be as safe and as well fed as other students. The kitchen may begin stocking a few gluten-free and lactose-free foods in our packed-to-the-brim freezer. We might move tuna, a mainstay on our deli bar, to an isolated spot in the cafeteria to prevent cross-contamination with other foods.
Keeping all parties informed is critical in handling the ever-increasing number and types of food allergies. Our nurse assembles a master list of students with allergies each school year for school staff. The kitchen staff refers to this list frequently. Even though there is plenty of adult supervision in school, allergy attacks may occur despite precautions. Parents need to teach their children with allergies to be discerning with what they put in their mouths, especially when they aren’t familiar with the food.
As you can see, there is no simple way of handling allergies. Each case requires a lot of time and individual attention of the school staff.