Food At Schools

A colleague of mine told me this story about her daughter:

SchoolFood“When my daughter started elementary school, she wanted to buy her lunch like “all of the other kids”.  However, each day, shortly after eating her school lunch, she became sick, got a bad headache, and would begin vomiting. The nurse would then call me and I would pick my daughter up from school.  The school nurse attributed it to either separation anxiety or to a “sick house”.

I did not believe that, and I took my daughter to Boston’s Childrens Hospital, where the physicians determined that my daughter had allergies to food preservatives, certain food additives and spices, msg , onions, nuts aged cheeses, nitrates, nitrites and many other triggers which produced migraines and vomiting.

As a work- at -home Mom, I then started to cook all of our meals from pure, whole foods and we never ate prepared meals, take-out, or fast foods.  I prepared everything from scratch, including desserts. (I guess the Italian in me!).  From then on my daughter took her own lunch to school every day, and on certain days I would bring her (and soon her teachers!) a hot lunch to school. I also offered to provide the food for every birthday party or slumber party that my daughter went to.  My friends loved it!

College presented another set of problems.

At the college that my daughter enrolled in, I signed her up for the top meal plan, which included the newest dining hall and a large selection of food stations.

Unfortunately, after only two weeks at school, my daughter told me that all she could eat for lunch and dinner was plain white rice, plain pasta with butter, lettuce with no dressing, and whole fruit such as apples and pears.

So, I made an appointment with the head of the college Food Service and traveled 1,500 miles to my daughter’s college.  When I arrived, the head of the college’s Food Service told me that they could not accommodate my daughter’s dietary requirements.  They told me that the school bought its food in bulk and had no idea what the foods were preserved with or marinated with and that they could not control cross contamination by other food products.

The college returned my check for my daughter’s meal plan immediately.

At a loss regarding the best way to handle my daughter’s nutrition while she was at school, I realized that the only solution was for her to buy her own food and cook her own meals.  However, in her dorm, there were no cooking facilities.

We went to Head of Student Housing who told us that they had no availability in the apartment style dorms which were reserved for upper classmen,  The college agreed to return my payment for student housing and advised my daughter to obtain private housing.  As a result, my daughter, a college freshman with no friends yet, had to live in an apartment off campus because the university was unable to serve fresh, whole, unadulterated food.

I rented a house for her which was two miles from campus and had a car shipped down to the college so that my daughter could commute to classes.  My husband and I took turns living at the house for the first semester until our daughter made friends, was accepted into a sorority, and lived in sorority apartment complex with her “sisters”, where she could be sure that maintain the diet that she needed in order to maintain her health”.

Making sure that our daughter had access to the foods that she needed in public school and in college for her “Special Diet” should not have been as difficult as it was.  Advocate for your children and make sure that they have access to the foods that they need to maintain their health.

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