Monday, February 11, 2013
How to Get Your School to Offer Gluten-Free Menus
Does your child have gluten intolerance or other food sensitivity? And when I use the word ‘child’, I am also including adult children who are attending college.
Are you concerned that the school cafeteria is a potential source of ill-health due to lack of awareness about food reactions?
If so, you are not alone. But what you may not be aware of is a legal precedent that was set recently in the state of Massachusetts involving Lesley University, the Justice Department and some students.
Lesley University has a mandatory food plan that students are required to pay for if they are living on-campus. Despite offering few to no menu options for students suffering from celiac disease, the University refused to let students opt-out of their required meal plan.
When the US Department of Justice was presented with this information they ruled in favor of the students, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that underwent an amendment in 2009 concerning episodic impairments that substantially limit activity. Obviously a person suffering from celiac disease will certainly suffer if they cannot find an adequate amount of uncontaminated gluten-free food to eat. It was this amendment that allowed food allergies, if severe enough, to be constituted as a disability.
Imagine the hardship on a young freshman suffering with celiac disease (or another serious food reaction) who finds him or herself alone, away from mom’s kitchen for the first time, getting ill on the only food offered in college. It’s difficult enough being a freshman without adding toxic overload and nutrient deficiencies to the mix. Not to mention the social repercussions of trying not to ‘be different’ while suffering under the burden of little food to eat.
Under the settlement between the Department of Justice and Lesley University, the school agreed to provide gluten-free options on its meal plan in addition to providing students with the option to pre-order gluten-free food that will be prepared in a dedicated space to prevent contamination. They also promised to train their staff about food allergies.
While this agreement is an isolated event, the good news is that it sets a precedent that will hopefully be duplicated in other schools. Likely taking on a public school or a state school could be more difficult, but certainly worth the effort if some enlightenment could occur.
Personally I took on my children’s private high school 12 years ago when gluten awareness was nowhere near what it is today. I was met with many a jaundiced eye, but I persevered – after all I did have three children attending. The result was not only a kitchen that offered many gluten-free options but the long-term benefit was that due to my childrens’ willingness to discuss their condition, many students discovered their intolerance to gluten, thereby improving their health as well as many of their relatives.
Whether you are up for taking this on or not is your decision. But if you ever thought about enlightening your child’s school, this precedent will doubtless make your job a bit easier.
Organizations such as Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) have created programs for those in the dining services profession to learn how to correctly deal with gluten intolerance. The NFCA’s program is called GREAT Schools, Colleges and Camps.
If you have any questions or need more information, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We are here to help. And if your health status is not at the level you desire, consider calling us for a free health analysis – call 408-733-0400. Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally so you do not need to live locally to receive treatment.
To your good health,
Dr Vikki Petersen
Author of the eBook: “Gluten Intolerance – What you don’t know may be killing you!”