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Work Cafeteria Asking For Suggestions - Please Help With Ideas
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Brainstorming with my cloud friends - 

 

My company cafeteria manager is willing to hear me out on easy/low-cost solutions to give me more choices at lunch.  They have gluten-free bread, and the employee making the sandwiches will put on new gloves for me and prepare the sandwich isolated on a plate, and not cut it, for example.  But the last time she did this, she put on the new gloves, then handled someone else's sandwich before returning to prep mine.  I started tearing up, and said I couldn't take the sandwich, sent off a note, and they agreed to meet with me to see what we can come up with.

 

As I said to them, I know I can go out, but we have work meetings at the cafeteria and it's freezing outside, and I don't get a real lunch hour anyway.  Life with kids and a demanding job means I'm lucky if I can make a sandwich at home to bring in, let alone bring a real lunch. Yes, we have a microwave and I occasionally make one of those pre-packaged noodle meals or frozen lunches, but I'm  hoping for some more variety and to be able to eat with my colleagues.

 

Would love some ideas I can bring to the cafeteria manager when we meet tomorrow.  I really appreciate that they are willing to try.  

 

Thanks for your help.

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I would find time to make a sandwich. It only takes about two minutes to make one. Even if you have to wait until your day off - make a week's worth, stick them in the freezer and take one out each morning. But that's just me. I don't trust anybody who doesn't have celiac to "get it". They all seem to think we're overly cautious when it comes to CC. And no matter how well trained a cafeteria worker is, when it gets busy they are likely to do something like hand someone a gluten sandwich without even realizing it.

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I agree with bartfull.  If the person they trusted to make your sandwich displayed that they didn't get it already, I don't see how they will.  If they have a chef on staff and are able to use a back area for gluten-free prep only, and only that staff member makes your food, etc, then it may be worth it to try more.  But you don't have to make yourself something in the morning.   You can make and refrigerate things three days ahead safely.  You can also freeze meat and cheese sandwiches pretty well, so you can make them a week ahead and pull one out as you leave.  Put it in an insulated lunch bag with a cold pack and it will thaw out by lunchtime but still be cold.  It is worth it to carve out the two minutes for yourself so you can eat safely.

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You can ask them to provide fresh fruit and salads without croutons.  You may be able to get cooked vegetables from them as long as they understand the cc risk of sharing spoons ladles etc.  Another thing is they could cook you meats in a separate clean skillet instead of the grill.  Or serve frozen meats that they just warm up in the nuker.

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When they make sandwiches, if they are using the same meats and toppings that they use for everyone else then you aren't safe. They are reaching for those with gloves contaminated with crumbs and dropping them all over those things. 

 

I agree with two points. Maybe they could do packaged salads for you. As long as they are well educated they should be able to do this safely. Also, no matter how busy your life is, you simply may have to find time to make a lunch to bring with you. As pointed out, it takes literally 2 minutes to make a sandwich. If you like your bread toasted you can throw it in the toaster while you do things like you hair, brush your teeth or whatever else, then come back to it.

 

There are lots of idea for your bringing your own lunch that are insanely fast and easy and can be done ahead, but I'm just not sure how to educate an entire staff of people when you are starting from scratch. And frankly, if you don't have the time to make your own lunch, where will you find the time for that? Maybe suggest to them to go get GIG certified? But it isn't your job to teach them every last detail of how to keep you safe because they'll just think you're being picky and do you really want to get sick at work because they can't do it right? I wouldn't.

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I would not trust them to make a sandwich - for all of the reasons others have mentioned.  Most deli meat isn't safe, some sliced cheese isn't safe, and if they're getting crumbs in the container of mayo, the shredded lettuce, the tomatoes, and whatever else then you're done for.  That said, if you can tolerate dairy they can stock single-serve cottage cheese and yogurt.  Salads are easier to make safely but I would insist on single-serve packaged salad dressing.  It's great that they're willing to accommodate a special diet... but if they don't understand what it is that they're volunteering to try to do then it will be you who suffers for their mistakes.

 

All that aside... it's actually pretty easy to throw together your own lunch.  I typically take cottage cheese, an apple, a 1/2 cup of mixed nuts, a large salad, a yogurt, and a protein bar.  I eat every couple of hours throughout the day because trying to set aside 30 min. for an actual lunch just doesn't happen.  I also keep a few cans of Amy's soup at the office just in case I get stuck late and need a little extra food - I keep a microwaveable cup and a spoon and just nuke it when I need to.

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Thanks everyone - I appreciate the suggestions that have been made.  

 

As for bringing my own lunch, I do understand where you're all coming from, and perhaps because (I believe) I'm not super-sensitive and (I believe) my Celiac was caught pretty early, I may be a bit naive, but I really believe the only way to make the world change to allow us to fully participate is to demand it.

 

It was only 25 or so years ago that someone in a wheelchair wasn't able to go to a mall, or a movie theater or access the places everyone else was entitled to go.  I'm sure many were told they could just get someone to carry them up the stairs, or better yet, they'd be better off just staying home.  

 

I've been eating in this cafeteria a couple of times/week since my diagnosis, and I really think I've perhaps been glutened once (we all know it's tough to tell sometimes if your symptoms aren't always obvious).  My blood work and my follow-up endoscopies have been fine.  I simply want more variety and more confidence in their procedures.

 

I don't want to show up at lunch meetings with my brown bag and have to derail the agenda with an explanation of why (though I'm fully 'out' with my dx).  

 

I see no reason why, with a few simple fixes (maybe they prepackage a few sandwiches as a gluten-free grab and go?, and I like the single serve cottage cheese idea), I can't have options like everyone else.  I have a company willing to work with me and allow me to educate them.  Isn't that what we all want?  

 

Again, thank you and again, I do understand that if you've been struggling with this for your entire life, you want to do the maximum possible to protect yourself, but I'm in a position to advocate and educate for our needs, and I intend to take it.

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The website livingwithout.com has a good supply of literature that you could order, then present to the people at work who need to know.  Providing written information is much more effective than telling people the information.  

 

The cafeteria staff needs an inservice regarding food allergies in general, and gluten specifically.  I don't know who does this sort of inservice, or if it's in your job scope to teach one?  People need to know that this is a real illness, that we are not just being whiny, and that gluten really, honestly does make us sick.  

 

Thank you for wanting to be an advocate.

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I am so sorry to hear about your frustrations with your cafeteria at work. It must be very frustrating and from the sounds of it, it seems like it has been such a problem that you have even been lead to tears! I am so sorry!

 

I am going to be honest..

 

You can't expect people to change. You can't expect your cafeteria to prepare your gluten-free meal without cross contamination, you can't expect them to understand your frustrations and you definitely can't expect them to understand why you are trying to hard to be eating gluten-free in the first place. 

 

Here's what you can do:

1. You can set aside a day every week to prep your lunch meals-that will verify what you are putting in your mouth is in fact, gluten free.

 

2. You can educate your place of employment about what it means to be gluten free (which really means no grain-NO GRAINS AT ALL), ask to talk with the company CEO to explain your health concerns and see if any changes can be made. 

 

3. Reach out to others who you work with or eat at the same dining facility and ask them to join you in your quest towards getting truly gluten free lunches. 

 

4. Don't let the negativity in and don't throw a pity party-gain a new perspective! You aren't the victim. You are choosing to eat this way and with that may come certain bumps in the road, it's expected. If you pity you, everyone else will too and where is the power in that? Don't let people feel sorry for you. 

 

5. Remember why you are living gluten free? Your health is the most important aspect of your life. The majority of people don't get it! You don't want to deal with the consequences of eating gluten-a tummy ache, migraine or spending the next 2 days glued to the toilet, do you? I didn't think so. If you have to wake up earlier, stay up later or grow your own garden to get the right foods your body needs, then why wouldn't you? No one cares more about your health than you. 

 

Go out there and be a gluten free advocate!! Good luck on your journey :)

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An update:  I met with the cafeteria manager and their nutritionist, who happened to be on site today (our cafeteria, like many, is owned by a large chain).  I couldn't be more pleased. 

 

As of tomorrow, there will be a separate skillet and spatula waiting for me during the breakfast period, and they will be able to make me fried eggs (which I love!).  The skillet will again be there at lunch in case I want a piece of chicken or other item.

 

He sent me the labels of the marinades used for the chicken breast on the salad bar, and I'll review them, but that's the only potentially gluten item on the salad bar, so I'll feel pretty good once I confirm that these are ok (which -- at first glance -- they should be)

 

He went through the ingredients used on the meat for the carving board, and with a glove change, that should be ok, 

 

He's going to order single serve cottage cheese and be on the lookout for other packaged items he can add to the rotation.

 

And any day that I know in advance I'll be eating in, I can e-mail them and they'll prepare a sandwich for me in the back, in advance, with extra care against cc.

 

He seemed to 'get it', and talked about ramping up the training for the staff, too.

 

Thanks to all for your advice and suggestions - please know I did not take your concerns lightly.  I will continue to bring my own lunch when I can, and will watch carefully to see that the practices we discussed are followed, but all in all, I'm looking forward to that fried egg tomorrow!

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MissHealthNut, you said: "2. You can educate your place of employment about what it means to be gluten free (which really means no grain-NO GRAINS AT ALL)"

 

Not trying to be a hard case, but that is not true. Wheat, rye, barley, and non-certified gluten-free oats, are the only grains that will damage the villi in a celiac. While it's true that some of us develop intolerances to other foods, most celiacs can eat things like corn or rice with no symptoms, and more importantly, no damage. I'd hate to see any newbies mislead into thinking they had to give up all grains because the truth is, they don't.

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Nikki, I'm glad to hear they are listening to you! Maybe we ALL need to become celiac warriors! If we did, maybe not only your cafeteria, but RESTAURANTS would become safer for us! Thanks and keep us posted. :)

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Awesome, Nikki! I like the idea of you being able to email them and they have your sandwich already done in the back, probably before the lunch rush starts.  

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That sounds great!  I really hope more and more people like that start to surface.  So many just don't get it... it's refreshing to see that some people are willing to learn and do it right.  Congrats!

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I am so sorry to hear about your frustrations with your cafeteria at work. It must be very frustrating and from the sounds of it, it seems like it has been such a problem that you have even been lead to tears! I am so sorry!

 

I am going to be honest..

 

You can't expect people to change. You can't expect your cafeteria to prepare your gluten-free meal without cross contamination, you can't expect them to understand your frustrations and you definitely can't expect them to understand why you are trying to hard to be eating gluten-free in the first place. 

 

Here's what you can do:

 

2. You can educate your place of employment about what it means to be gluten free (which really means no grain-NO GRAINS AT ALL), ask to talk with the company CEO to explain your health concerns and see if any changes can be made. 

 

Go out there and be a gluten free advocate!! Good luck on your journey :)

 

This is the second post I have read in which you make claims that are untrue with regard to CELIAC DISEASE,  While many people are healthier living grain free - I happen to be one for nearly three years - there is a big difference between the level of removing gluten contained in Wheat, Barley and Rye to prevent the disease of celiac from causing more damage to one's body and removing other grains.

 

Alarmist posts about removing all grains is not helpful and in no way is it being an advocate for making our world safer for those with celiac disease.

 

There are many sites with a focus of living completely grain free -- your statements would be more appropriate there.  While we have many members that have removed all grains and many other foods that they are intolerant of, we have far many more new members and occasional visitors that come here when they first learn the words "celiac" or "gluten-free" and your statements are harmful to those people.  Please learn the difference between "gluten free" as medically needed in celiac disease and "grain-free" which is needed in many other circumstances. 

 

If you choose to continue to post here - kindly use the correct language for those newly diagnosed with celiac disease.  I have Celiac Disease along with intolerance to other grains and have studied both extensively. 

 

You need to continue the celiac disease portion of your recent education and think carefully about to whom you are speaking on this forum.

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