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LyndaLou

Advice On Cafeteria Meals For Boarding School Student

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This is my first post ever, but I've learned so much from this site. I hope you all can give me some much needed guidance.

My 18 year-old daughter is a senior in high school. She attends a public, residential high school about 3 hours from home. (It's a school for students that have shown academic talent in math and science.) It's an amazing opportunity for her. It's a 2 year school (juniors & seniors) located on a public university campus. The university cafeteria supplies the meals for all the students.

Since she lives in a dorm situation, she is limited in the food she can make for herself. She was diagnosed with Celiac this summer about 2 weeks before she moved back to school. We met with the student affairs head of the high school, the head of food services for the university, and the head chef of the cafeteria, and were assured they would work with us.

What has actually happened, has been less than ideal. The main problem comes from what I call the "front line workers". They keep telling Katherine to "just get something off the line" rather than make her a special plate.

And even when they do make a special plate, we think they probably just get food off the line. She has said that she feels like she keeps a low level of glutening all the time. She has missed classes because of full on glutening.

I have once again sent an email to the "powers that be", but wondered if anyone has any advice. We are in an unusual situation, in that she's still under the public high school jurisdiction, and the regulations they have to provide for students, and yet on a university campus, and I'm not sure how much they have to do to accommodate her.

Sorry this is so long, but I'm out of ideas.

Lynda

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I think I remember other people saying on here that Celiac is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which means they would have to make some accomodation for her.

I think part of the problem is that she needs to speak up to the front line workers and explain to them how sick she'll get from the gluten. But I know it's not always realistic to expect an 18 year old to feel comfortable doing that. I'm more than twice her age and I'm still having problems with that. So I don't have any great advice on how to make her more assertive about that.

My only suggestion would be to keep bringing it up with the people "up top" in hopes that it trickles down. You may want to look up the ADA law and mention it to them. That might make them sit up and take more notice. Good luck!

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My experience in dealing with the cafeteria staff at our school has been.

1 Have conversations in person whenever possible

2. Be EXTREMELY grateful for them taking time to help your child ( I do this regardless of how I really feel *wink*)

3. Be clear that it's an autoimmune disorder but it responds like an allergy ( they will understand allergy )

4. Keep it simple , explain that contaminations are hard to avoid and ask them to do their best

Does your girl get a choice of foods now?

How many meals is she having there ?

Do they have gluten-free specific foods or is it natural foods they are preparing ?

Are they willing to buy gluten-free foods ?

I have been dealing with our cafeteria for 6 weeks developing food options and cooking processes. This is what we will be/are doing at her school (elementary) for 5 celiac kids

Each day is a designated gluten-free food item. ( no choices)

They have separate pans they line with parchment paper and all meals are baked.

The sides are simple like fresh fruit, yogurt, chips and gluten-free cookies.

Fresh gloves must be worn when dealing with gluten-free foods.

I don't know if any of this applies to you but I hope so.

Good luck

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Does she or can she get any on-campus medical professionals to advocate for her? If a doctor or clinic nurse could speak to cafeteria staff in person they might take it a bit more serious??

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Thanks for the replies. I'm sending an email to the student affairs dean. She's been very responsive in the past, and I expect a phone call from her tomorrow. Katherine is just so tired of fighting it. She's getting frustrated, and is ready to just fend for herself.

I understand. I've not been through the testing, but I either have celiac myself, or am very gluten intolerant. I know how I feel when my food is coming to me through other hands. Especially if I feel that the other hands either don't know or don't care about my issues. I cannot imagine if every meal was dependent on others.

This is just the beginning, I know, because next year she goes off to college!

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I know they are supposed to accommodate but the reality is that is a tall order even if they are well educated and willing, which it sound like they are not.

I have two ideas.

The first one is to send the food yourself. This is what we do when the kids go to overnight camps. Everything is labeled with the day and meal or snack it is for. It's kept in the walk in and staff are instructed on how to safely handle it. We get permission for our kids to handle their own food when possible. Depending on her level of sensitivity, you may be able to identify some foods the cafeteria provides such as raw fruits and veggies that your daughter can have access to wash herself and eat when necessary.

It would be a weekly trek, or maybe with frozen home cooked meals you could stretch it out longer.

Another thing is that she could get permission to do her own cooking. She could use a mini fridge, hot plate, crock pot, cutting board and pan. A toaster oven would be great but maybe too much of a fire hazard. I'm not sure what the time and logistics around getting food would be. Maybe her own grocery list could be added to the regular kitchen list and kept separate.

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I know they are supposed to accommodate but the reality is that is a tall order even if they are well educated and willing, which it sound like they are not.

I have two ideas.

The first one is to send the food yourself. This is what we do when the kids go to overnight camps. Everything is labeled with the day and meal or snack it is for. It's kept in the walk in and staff are instructed on how to safely handle it. We get permission for our kids to handle their own food when possible. Depending on her level of sensitivity, you may be able to identify some foods the cafeteria provides such as raw fruits and veggies that your daughter can have access to wash herself and eat when necessary.

It would be a weekly trek, or maybe with frozen home cooked meals you could stretch it out longer.

Another thing is that she could get permission to do her own cooking. She could use a mini fridge, hot plate, crock pot, cutting board and pan. A toaster oven would be great but maybe too much of a fire hazard. I'm not sure what the time and logistics around getting food would be. Maybe her own grocery list could be added to the regular kitchen list and kept separate.

While sending in food works for short term things like camp, it may be much more difficult in a dorm setting at a University. For one they may not have the room to store all of the extra food. I've seen University cafeteria walk ins and they are packed. There there is the matter of having it heated by the staff..Plus it could be a huge inconvenience for the family and the the student. Many residential schools have activities on the weekends that she would have to miss to go home. And it's asking her parents to drive 12 hrs in one weekend every weekend. The cost for gas would be huge. So this might be a good last ditch effort to keep her in the school. Have you discussed what is done for the University students who have food allergies or celiac? they might have a special cafeteria or special arrangement that can be applied for your daughter.

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I realize the ideas I proposed are inconvenient. A week of food would require 6 hours driving, not 12 - still a big sacrifice. Walk ins are crowded but shed have to have food there one way or the other - or could be given a fridge in her room or community area. Another thought is she could do her own once a week cooking in a community or church kitchen. If she has access to transportation she could do her own shopping.

It sounded to me like the family had already been assured the kitchen would feed her safely and they had proven unable to do so. I wouldn't want to rely on the apathetic staff to protect my health in that situation. Of course it's a hassle to shop and cook or send food, IMO that's way better than being sick.

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There's always removing her from a dangerous enviroment.

Not a popular option, I'm sure.

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Hey everyone! I've been at work all day, with no internet access, so I'm just now getting caught up.

The school's student affairs director and the school director met with the head of food services today and they came up with a better plan for Katherine.

They will have a plate ready for her at 11:00 each day and are meeting with the staff to further educate them about gluten and how to avoid cross contamination.

They are also going to move the bread products to the end of the line to try to avoid having the bread fall into the veggies (yes, she's seen it happen!).

They honestly seem to be trying to make this work. They immediately act upon any concerns I have, and hopefully it will get better, at least for a while.

Thanks everyone for your ideas and input. As I said before, this is a learning experience for everyone involved. Including the university. It's small, and Katherine

is the only student on campus(college or high school) on a gluten free diet. Maybe this will make someone's journey easier down the road!

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I realize the ideas I proposed are inconvenient. A week of food would require 6 hours driving, not 12 - still a big sacrifice. Walk ins are crowded but shed have to have food there one way or the other - or could be given a fridge in her room or community area. Another thought is she could do her own once a week cooking in a community or church kitchen. If she has access to transportation she could do her own shopping.

It sounded to me like the family had already been assured the kitchen would feed her safely and they had proven unable to do so. I wouldn't want to rely on the apathetic staff to protect my health in that situation. Of course it's a hassle to shop and cook or send food, IMO that's way better than being sick.

I was working under the assumption that she would go home for the weekend.Since she is at an age where she may want input in the menu and it would be a great time to teach her how to cook gluten free.

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They honestly seem to be trying to make this work. They immediately act upon any concerns I have, and hopefully it will get better, at least for a while.

Thanks everyone for your ideas and input. As I said before, this is a learning experience for everyone involved. Including the university. It's small, and Katherine

is the only student on campus(college or high school) on a gluten free diet. Maybe this will make someone's journey easier down the road!

Yeehaa! Go LyndaLou. I wish lots of good karma on all those people helping you out. :D

Make sure you keep in mind staff turnover at the kitchen. New staff next term/semester/week who don't understand what you've managed to put in place today. Make sure your daughter is aware of this too. She should keep an eye on who is who and who is new at the kitchen.

And I will hope your clever daughter goes to med school and becomes a brilliant celiac/gluten/food intolerance expert. Nobel prize ?!

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Make sure you keep in mind staff turnover at the kitchen. New staff next term/semester/week who don't understand what you've managed to put in place today. Make sure your daughter is aware of this too. She should keep an eye on who is who and who is new at the kitchen.

And I will hope your clever daughter goes to med school and becomes a brilliant celiac/gluten/food intolerance expert. Nobel prize ?!

Good idea about the staff turnover. Katherine has already started to keep a diary/log of what happens, etc. If we have to revisit this (and I'm sure we will) she'll have actual data to back up her concerns.

I keep telling her she needs to do "x" (with x being whatever celiac related thing we need at the moment!). She does want to go into product design/industrial design, so maybe something will come of it.

Thanks again for the encouragement!

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