School lunches for every Little Coeliac? Let’s make it happen! x

Mia’s School lunches – Our little Coeliac, Mia, is offered a hot school meal everyday.  This has been since day one of her starting Walkern Primary School two years ago.  Lisa Hayward, our wonderful school cook, uses a menu that has been created especially for Coeliacs and adapts it if Mia doesn’t particularly like a certain option.  Lisa works for Hertfordshire Catering Limited , who are able to offer special menus or various dietary requirement (as long as there is supporting medical evidence that it is necessary for the child). However, I quickly realised that Mia was in the minority and extremely fortunate being offered daily hot meals at school, as so many others in her situation are offered merely a baked potato once a week or absolutely nothing!

Being really shocked that many children were not being given their daily free school meals, on the basis of their dietary requirements, I contacted Hertfordshire Catering Limited to find out why they decided to offer this to our children and what they have done to make it easier for their school cooks to achieve the adaptations in the meals.

Meeting a Nutritionist – I had a meeting with Anka Johnston, Nutritionist for Hertfordshire Catering Limited, who was unaware of how unique their meal planning is.  She has made sure that the children’s adapted meals follow the same meals as the other children in school, so they look the same despite having the appropriate nutritional changes.  It has not been an easy job, but it was clearly important for Anka and Lisa to be able to offer every child a school meal, despite their special dietary requirement.  As a parent, it is so refreshing to hear that a school cook and catering company are striving to do their very best by your child, so there is one less barrier for our children with special dietary requirements to overcome.

Mia’s School – Walkern Primary School is a small village school, where you would imagine it may be harder to have a separate area within the kitchen for preparing foods safely to avoid cross contamination issues.  However, they have achieved it and been so successful with their catering that Lisa and her team won an award for ‘Primary School Catering Team of the Year 2016’ !!!!

IMG_0149

How have they achieved this?  Each member of the catering team has to attend a 3 week training course, which includes learning about the various menus, adaptations and cross contamination issues (There is also a recognised Coeliac course for cooks that the Coeliac UK suggest).  Lisa cooks all meals from scratch and the normal school menu offers a green option (vegetarian) or red (meat option), one of which will be adapted to suit a coeliac menu.  For example, on Wednesdays there is always a roast and Mia is allowed everything except yorkshires and stuffing, as even their gravy is gluten free for ease and to avoid any contamination issues. Also for a salad side option, due to the likelihood of contamination as bread is next to the salad bar, Lisa ensures that a little salad is separated for Mia and  put to one side and covered over to stop any crumbs getting in.

Within Hertfordshire Catering Limited, the school kitchens are provided with a list of ingredients which contain allergens and they follow the menus which have been adapted by the nutritionist, Anka.  If they have to make changes to any dishes or ingredients then they have all of the information in which to do so, including having Anka at the end of the phone line for additional support.

Lisa also ensures that all children with a special dietary requirement is easily recognisable to staff in the kitchen at lunch times.  She has photos of the specific children in the kitchen, labelling the foods that they must avoid.  Lisa has also developed a multi-coloured loom band for the children to wear, as an extra reminder to the staff, which is a cool way for the children to subtly show staff that they need an adapted meal.

Mia’s current school lunch menu –

Week one Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Coeliac Menu Gluten free turkey sausages and creamed potatoes Vegetable grill with potato wedges Roast beef with roast potatoes

Or

Quorn fillet with roast potatoes

Creamy chicken curry with rice Gluten free fish fingers with low fat chips
`Jelly and fruit Fruit salad with gluten free shortbread Ice cream with fruit Frozen yoghurt with fruit Strawberry mousse

 

Week two Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Coeliac Menu Jacket potato and beans Gluten free fish cake with diced potatoes Roast pork (no stuffing) with apple sauce and parliament potatoes

 

Bolognaise with gluten free pasta Vegetable grill
`Jelly and fruit Fruit salad with gluten free shortbread Ice cream with fruit Frozen yoghurt with fruit Strawberry mousse

 

Week three Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Coeliac Menu Pork strips (no Yorkshire) and potato wedges Gluten free turkey burger (no bun) with diced potatoes Roast chicken (no stuffing) and roast potatoes

 

2 x quorn frankfurters (no roll) with diced potatoes Gluten free fish fingers and low fat chips
`Jelly and fruit Fruit salad with gluten free shortbread Ice cream with fruit Frozen yoghurt with fruit Strawberry mousse

 

How can you help your little Coeliac with their school lunches?

  1. Take the information to your school from Coeliac UK to help them understand what it is and the issues around Coeliac Disease, along with a doctor’s letter/diagnosis letter stating that your child has ‘Coeliac Disease’.
  2. Ensure the school cook is aware of training courses available for the kitchen staff to help them learn about Coeliac Disease and cross contamination issues (easily done via Coeliac UK), if they are not already knowledgeable.
  3. Help the kitchen staff look at the menus and suggest slight adaptations, which can make a meal gluten free/coeliac friendly (use the menu sample from Mia’s school above).
  4. Have regular contact with your school cook to ensure that they understand your child’s needs and likes/dislikes.
  5. Remember that children in key stage one (up to the end of year 2) are entitled to free school meals, so your child should not miss out.

Children with special dietary requirements are always going to struggle at meal times. When they are at school, they should feel safe and looked after what ever their abilities or limitations. It does take a bit of extra thinking from the school and catering company, but our children should always be included and made to feel accepted especially when eating at school. Many people feel that meal times are important occasions where children interact, learn and socialise with each other and inclusion is essential throughout their formative years.

You shouldn’t have to fight for this, but hopefully this may help give a positive nudge in the right direction to any schools/catering companies who are seeming reluctant to help.

Good luck!!

Mia and Mummy x

 

Haddock Fishcakes

image

 

We originally made these as a starter for the whole family and were inspired by a Mary Berry Christmas recipe.  They were such a hit that we have them as a regular supper now.  They are a bit fiddly to make, but you can make a whole batch and freeze them for a later date.  In fact, we think they maintain their shape better when they have been cooked from frozen (add 10-15 mins extra cooking time if cooking from frozen).

 

Ingredients: (makes approx 12)

450g potatoes (peeled and chopped)

450g fish (we use a mix of smoked and unsmoked haddock)

25g butter

3x tbsp fresh parsley/dill/coriander (chopped and optional)

2 X heaped tbsp mayonnaise

GF breadcrumbs (from approx 4-5 slices of bread)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven 200 degrees C
  2. Put potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 mins or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, season the fish and wrap in foil with the butter. Place in oven, on a baking tray, for 12-15 mins.
  4. Mash potatoes using juices from the cooked fish.
  5. Flake the fish with a fork, getting rid of any bones and skin.
  6. Add the fish to the mash potato and mix well.
  7. Then add the rest of the ingredients, season well and mix thoroughly.
  8. Divide the mixture into 12 round fish cakes and cover in breadcrumbs.
  9. Leave to cool and freeze at this point if not eating today.
  10. If eating today, turn the oven up to 220 degrees C.
  11. Place on a greased baking tray and cook in oven for 20-25 mins, until golden brown, turning them over gently after 15 mins.

These are delicious served with a tartare sauce, a slice a lemon and a crunchy salad.

Enjoy X

 

(Many thanks to Auntie Jodie for the photo of Alex’s supper X)

 

IMG_1476

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