I can hardly believe I’m able to write about this. I never thought that my son would be able to participate in any school lunch program. He entered Kindergarten allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, eggs and dairy. Amazingly, in close collaboration with our allergist, my son outgrew that latter two.
We rejoiced when he most recently outgrew dairy. Our family happily made a list of all the foods he could now taste. And, suddenly, we realized that he might be able to sign up for our school’s hot lunch program – a program he had been hoping to try.
Like many schools, our hot lunch program is entirely nut-free. That came as a huge relief. But sesame seed allergies are tricky. And, I would have to do a lot of research to ensure the meals were still safe for my son before signing him up.
I first went online to our school’s internal website. I was pleasantly surprised to find the lunch schedule mapped out from September until winter break. And when I scrolled on each dish on the menu, I was even more surprised to see the ingredient lists pop up. What luck! I made some notes on a few meals where questions remained (such as ingredients in hamburger buns, oil used to fry falafel, additional information needed in various seasoning mixes) and contacted the school to get answers.
The Director of Food Services at the school was amazing! When I contacted him, he immediately made time for us to sit down in the kitchen and gather additional information. He demonstrated great understanding of food allergies and was patient as we plodded through his kitchen reading the ingredient lists of bottles and packages. We made a final list of questions he needed to follow up on with his suppliers and I left with a sense of confidence (and awe) that my son could try hot lunches.
As it turns out, there are three meals that my son can’t eat: Falafel (they’re baked not fried, but the mix contained sesame seed oil) and two Asian-inspired dishes. Thankfully, the cafeteria always serves two main dishes each day, so my son can choose the other on days when one of the above forbidden meals are offered.
How has he liked it? Pretty good!
- He’s 8, active and growing. So, he’s HUNGRY at lunch. He loves that he can eat a hardy meal and go back for seconds.
- He enjoys the variety: rotisserie chicken one day, italian sausage and peppers the next, chicken fajitas a third.
- Plus, it’s hot: roasted potatoes and meatball subs taste way better warm!
- I love that he tries new things all the time. Not only does he only have limited options for a main dish, but watching his friends chow down on something new, like jerk pork chop, intrigues him into giving it a fair shot.
- And, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it’s certainly easier for both of us in the morning!
I was biting my nails with anxiety the first day of hot lunch. Although I had checked and read the packaging, I was still nervous about him embarking on this great, big step. But he came home thrilled – and proud! And I love that kind of confidence and hope this transition in the life of food allergies only continues to foster his sense that he can manage anything!