School Lunches…….yes please!

Are you confident that your child’s School meals are completely gluten free? Is your School only suggesting a baked potato once a week if that?  Well, we believe ALL children should be able to have a School meal and EVERY day.

Mia has been so fortunate with her School (Walkern Primary School, Hertfordshire) and her wonderful School Cook, Lisa. We joined Walkern School in September 2014 and arrived with the School’s first little Coeliac. I was asked to attend a meeting the day before School term started, so that the Head Teacher, Class Teacher, Head of Hertfordshire Catering Ltd and the School Cook could meet Mia and discuss her needs.

In the meeting, the School needed a copy of Mia’s medical letter stating her diagnosis.  I also supplied them with the information pack that I downloaded from the Coeliac UK website.  They had already looked up everything that they needed to know and were very clued up and I was hugely impressed.  As Mia was then going into Year 1 and would be, in theory, eligible for the free School meals, I asked about how frequently they could provide her with a safe School meal.  Without question, and to my absolute surprise, they said ‘everyday’!!

They are in constant liaison with me, even now a year on, and mainly to double check that Mia is enjoying the food.  They have ensured that there is no cross contamination and have gone the extra mile for us.  Mia has suffered no adverse effects at all from her School meals.  Lisa, the School Cook, even took it upon herself to make loom bands for the children who were like Mia and needed special plates of food.  This made it a cool thing and highlighted the specific children to the staff, but in a more covert way to enable the children to feel comfortable about having perhaps slightly different food from their friends.  Mia loved the loom band idea and felt special.

I am constantly hearing about the huge struggle that parents of children with Coeliac Disease and other allergies and intolerances have when trying to get a School to offer a meal for their child.  There is so much that other Schools can be doing and I am hugely aware that many schools just refuse to take on a child with allergies, intolerances and additional food needs.  Walkern School and Lisa do make it look so easy and I’m sure it was a huge challenge to them initially, but my goodness they’ve done it.  My Mia suffers from really low self esteem, but at School, she feels on a par with her friends at lunch times…..as a Mum, that is just priceless.

Lisa’s  response to what Mia’s meals are and why she took Mia’s  needs on board:

“A few of Mia’s school lunches..A typical week
Gluten free pasta bolognaise
Gluten free fish fingers, homemade potato wedges
Roast chicken breast , homemade roast potatoes, gravy
Gluten free turkey sausage, jacket potato, baked beans
Chicken curry (mild) and rice..

All these served with a choice of three vegetables and or salads..

I make gluten free cookies, sponges, jelly and there is always a frozen fruit smoothie  available..

I was very keen to meet Mia’s needs when I knew she was joining my school. I contacted my head office where a menu team have all dietary needs covered. A menu was sent to me, some of the items are not available through our suppliers which means I have to source and shop for them. All of Mia’s food items are stored separately and clearly labelled. It is very important that I have a close relationship with Mia and her Mum so we can all work together, I ask Mia what she likes and isn’t so keen on..Jacket potatoes being one.!!!!..so I ensure I make the changes and cover it with the necessary departments…For me it is so important that Mia is fed a lunch at school, that she is able to sit in the dining room with her friends, eat safely , enjoy it and that her Mum knows she can leave Mia in my safe hands..so it’s a matter of trust…We run a ‘band’ colour system at school, so to also ensure Mia is not excluded I designed some for my ‘special allergy’ pupils, I also have a photo graph with dietary info on in clear site of the serving counter. I am very aware of how difficult it can be to eat safely as a Coeliac and the awful effects of a the smallest amount of gluten…I am confident in feeding Mia, am very happy indeed that she likes school lunch that I cook and serve her daily…but more so I am happy that her Mum is confident in my ability and that she trusts me to feed her daughter…that’s what is important..

Kind Regards
Lisa …(the cook )..x ”

The lovely Lisa and I will be creating a ‘School Meal’ section on the blog in the future to help more Schools understand how beneficial it can be to include children like Mia in their School lunches.  There will be recipe ideas and tips to take to your Schools, so keep a look out! x

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