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Is school meals or packed lunches better for a child with an allergy?

(38 Posts)
wangle99 Tue 01-Jul-08 21:05:50

DS has an allergy to wheat, he doesn't need much to set off a reaction. He isn't anaphylactic but it causes severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps (he doesn't make it to the loo half the time sad)

DS currently at nursery at independent school and they have managed it fantastically well. He goes into reception at local state school and I'm really not sure how to deal with it.

School meals aren't great but he eats dinners well with his peers - food not prepared on site but delivered in from a school 5 miles away.

Packed lunches - obviously we know what he's eating but am concerned he'll swap food with another child (even though he knows he shouldn't hmm or end up getting crumbs off the table mixed with his food.

I can't work out if I'm being neurotic or whether there is a real risk here lol or what would be best. Any btdt advice greatly received!

Twiglett Tue 01-Jul-08 21:07:54

I'd say packed lunches and strict instructions not to swap.

Twiglett Tue 01-Jul-08 21:08:11

assume he is allergic to flour

twoisplenty Tue 01-Jul-08 21:10:03

My dd has food intolerances and allergy to nuts. Definitely taking sandwiches.

I think children of this age know what they can//cannot eat, so I wouldn't worry about swapping.

wangle99 Tue 01-Jul-08 21:10:11

he is allergic to anything that has wheat in, flour is obviously the main ingredient but wheat starch is in the most bizarre things you wouldn't expect to be in and he even reacts to that (couldn't believe it but testing shows he does).

I might put stickers over his lunchbox reminding him. I think I'm just panicking! Plus I don't want to be collecting him all the time with diarrhoea. (that sounds really uncaring but its horrible when it happens).

wangle99 Tue 01-Jul-08 21:11:00

DS is pretty good and usually questions what is in food, can just imagine another child saying 'oh this doesn't have wheat in, have some' and DS believing him!

twoisplenty Tue 01-Jul-08 21:11:18

Is this the same thing as coeliac disease, Wangle?

Twiglett Tue 01-Jul-08 21:14:48

yes but he can't have school dinners because flour and flour starches will turn up in many dishes (in roues, puddings etc) and you can't expect the school to cater to this type of allergy...if it was nuts they could go nut free but unfortunately this is harder

so you only really have the option of packed lunches

wangle99 Tue 01-Jul-08 21:17:24

No, not the same as coeliac disease as DS can have all other grains (thank goodness!) so not AS restricted as coeliacs.

We have been spoilt with the nursery he is at because they just prepared special food each day for him! He's not going to be impressed with packed lunches every day but of course needs must.

(Oh and school is a healthy eating school so have said no crisps, chocolate, cake etc in lunch box which isn't going to go down well either!!!!)

twoisplenty Tue 01-Jul-08 21:17:44

Would it be worth having a chat to the catering manager/cook, or whatever the title is these days? they may surprise you, there may some legislation meaning they have to meet your ds needs? I don't know this, I'm only guessing, but it's worth chatting to the school, then you'd know for sure.

wangle99 Tue 01-Jul-08 21:22:08

A friend did say they would have to cater but I wasn't sure. Haven't a clue who would speak to as cooking is actually done at a primary school 5 miles away and brought in at some point during the morning. Perhaps if I rang education dept they could tell me.

Otherwise packed lunch it is!

twoisplenty Tue 01-Jul-08 21:25:11

I really really don't feel like doing packed lunches every day for dd!! So much easier to send her to school without thinking about FOOD! I have been in the land of luxury for years now with my ds who has school dinners, and always has had.

Ah well...I shall look forward to every evening stuck in the kitchen staring in the cupboard for inspiration at 11pm!

MeMySonAndI Wed 02-Jul-08 00:35:51

DS is allergic to peanuts, nuts, kiwi, dairy, fish, eggs and wheat. And can't eat sandwiches anymore as he is now reacting to yeast. So, I think that dealing just with the wheat allergy is relatively easy once that you are used to it.

What I have noticed is:

- Packed lunches are a bore to do when you are out of practice, once you get used to it you won't even think they are difficult. I cook for 4 (we are only 2) and freeze the left overs in small containers that later are unfrozen and placed as cold/hot dinners in a wide mouth thermos. It is not time consuming at all to prepare the lunchbox while you are cooking something else the night before, just keep the lunchbox in the fridge and things should be OK.

- Even if the school is not cooking his lunch it would be a good idea to talk to the school nurse/cook/the teacher or whomever is around at lunch times and ask them about their policy about transcontamination. I have turned down an otherwise excellent school as they couldn't get arsed... but then with peanut allergy I have no option.

- The agreement I have with DS's school cook is that we meet at the beginning of each term to discuss the menu. Normally she will cook free from versions for DS but in the past DS would eat what he could from the menu (like vegetables and meats) complemented with Free-From food that I had sent to the cook in advance. (like glutten free fish fingers, chicken nuggets, glutten free bread/biscuits, etc)

- DS's school cook is so WONDERFUL that she even keeps frozen glutten free cake that she does herself in case someone at DS's class shows up with a birthday cake. Alternatively, you can ask the teacher about possible birthday dates to ensure you send your child in with a suitable substitute.

- DS and his classmates are so used to DS's dietary requirements that they police each other's food even when they are in reception.

- Don't underestimate the power children have to remain safe, through much consitency DS has learned that he shouldn't try any other food unless is aproved by a designated adult. He is good at reminding people that he is not allowed certain foods. Obviously, there should always be someone taking care of him just in case, but in general he is quite good at controlling himself.

christywhisty Wed 02-Jul-08 10:36:32

DS's (nut and seed allergies) school had a no nut/seed policy and were reluctant to let him have school dinners, but his consultant said it would be better for him.

His is now in secondary and has no problems there either.

His allergies started at 4 and he knew exactly what he could and couldn't eat from then.

desperatehousewifetoo Wed 02-Jul-08 12:58:24

I think memysonandi very sensible advice. It should be up to the school to rpovide safe food for your dc.

Phone the headteacher to discuss your concerns. You will probably find they are catering for children with other allergies too. Ask what training lunch-time staff have about cross contamination and swappig food, etc.

You will probably find that your dc will start to police himself as he gets older.

My ds (6yrs) is very aware of his allergies (peanut, hazlenut and egg) and now always checks before eating something at parties. With allergies, this is a life-skill (literally!) to develop. All his friends are aware of his allergies and also pipe up ''can ds have that?''

If someone brings in a birthday cake and do not bring an alternative for him or I don't know in advance, he is fine about not having it. I've always taken the attitude of 'well done for being sensible and not having it' rather than 'oh poor you. You couldn't have any cake'.

Good luck, it does get easier as they get older. And, as post above says, if you go down packed lunch route, it isn't difficult once you get used to it.

twoisplenty Thu 03-Jul-08 19:37:43

I went to the school today, and spoke to the head cook, plus the county's supervisor from the council.

they were supportive of school dinners for those with allergies. I am to make a list of foods she cannot eat, then have a meeting to discuss menu plans and then they will serve appropriate meals for my dd.

I am happy with this. I would really prefer my dd to have school dinners (especially in the winter). She can swap to packed lunches if she likes.

The quality of the meals is really good around here. Food is cooked on-site, and there is good variety.

I will let you know how the meeting goes.

Turniphead1 Thu 03-Jul-08 20:02:15

Thanks for starting this thread twoisplenty - I have been thinking about exactly the same thing for my DD who is starting reception in Sept and allergic to egg, milk and kiwi.

I REALLY want her to have school dinners, for the reasons you outlined. She is very very good at self policing (has been since 18 months, bless her) and it's very reassuring to hear others say that the other children will soon pitch in and help.

My main concern is that she will end up with very restricted choices (dairy free often means - potato meat and veg or plain pasta every day) which is what happened at her private nursery. I am thinking of buying an extra copy of "How to Cook for Food Allergies" as I have found this to be the best cook book for my DD. It is great on gluten free too. I think I will try and find a way to keep track of what she is being given each day to make sure there is plenty of variety. And if necessary I will bring them in some Pure spread, soya milk and dairy free yoghurts/ice cream.

Turniphead1 Thu 03-Jul-08 20:04:17

twoisplenty - another thing - did they mention that they will put up a photo of your DS in the kitchen etc with a list of his allergies. Some local authorities do this and it works well in case there are replacement staff on a given day.

twoisplenty Thu 03-Jul-08 20:14:34

No problem Turniphead, except that I didn't start the thread!! That honour goes to Wangle99.

They didn't mention about a photo, but they may do at the meeting.

It does make me wonder how many other children have these problems. Just to know my dd is not the only one! Not to wish this on any other child of course, but you know what I mean.

Turniphead1 Thu 03-Jul-08 20:19:28

Doh sorry wangle99!

electricbarbarella Fri 04-Jul-08 12:16:32

We are at the same place, dd1 coeliacs is starting school on sep, I have decided it is best just to go for the paked lunch option and teacher has assured me they will be very well supervised at lunch times.

Anchovy Fri 04-Jul-08 13:16:12

My DS's best mate is very allergenic/anaphylactic. They are in Year 1 and the children have all dealt with it very matter of factly. There are policies on offering/swapping food - ie not - and on contamination. There are photos up on the wall identifying the child, the allergies, the symptoms and the treatment. So I think a lot of schools are able to deal with this as an issue.

I do however take issue with the statement that "It should be up to the school to rpovide safe food for your dc". I think there is a responsibility on the parent to work with the school to set up a regime to keep the child safe - MeMysonandI's approach sounds great.

wangle99 Sun 06-Jul-08 09:45:20

Twoisplenty that school sounds fab. DSs current nursery/school is brilliant but it is independent. The state school he is going to in September doesn't even have a kitchen so no staff there to discuss it with - food is cooked and brought in!

Am writing a letter to the school now to ask on policies. Should be interesting!

eddiejo Mon 07-Jul-08 21:13:36

My DS5 started school last sept and is also allergic to wheat and gluten ( i think I've MN with you before!)
I did try lunches as they are supposed to provide but they cook them on site and they were very jumpy about it and kept ringing me to see what he could have!!! hmm

DS is fantastic at keeping away from wheat and has only come home with Diorhhea (?SP) once when i think he was given a wheat crunchie by his friend!

Packed lunches are much better. He has sanwiches (GF/WF) or hams/ salami/ cheeses/ fruit/ yog/ cake/crisps/ homemade pizza/ etc and at least I know he is safe.

Also got some allergy stickers from labels 4 you or similar saying wheat free etc and the school have his picture in a cupboard! with his allergies underneath it so cannot mix him up (there are 90 children in reception!!)

Fluffybubble Mon 07-Jul-08 21:28:40

Do any of you use the 'I am allergic to...' bracelets for your dc at school? Just wondering if I should invest in some smile

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