When I was 7 years old, I had my tonsils out. To break up the monotony of my 10 day recovery, my mom put together a goodie box that I pulled from each day. It was filled with crayons and coloring books, small toys and playing cards. For those of us with dietary restrictions, a goodie box is a must, no matter how old we are. I realized this when my little boy started kindergarten.
Sometime after Channukah and before Christmas, the younger kids at our elementary school typically build edible snowmen out of graham crackers, marshmallows, pretzels and chocolate chips. Very cute. After school one day, over the heads of the kids, I tell my son’s teacher that I’ll grab the GF ingredients for this upcoming craft. “No need,” she smiles. “I already did.” I looked at her quizzically. “But it’s expensive,” I protest. She just shook her head and smiled.
I was stumped. I couldn’t believe that a teacher was relieving me of this extra step. But I should have known. Before school even started, she e-mailed me to discuss how she might handle treats for birthdays and school parties. I think they lumped several of the “allergy kids” into this one class, because aside from my little Mr. Gluten, she’s got a Mr. Peanut in there, too. Her solution was all natural, all-fruit popsicles that she keeps in the freezer of the teacher’s lounge. Brilliant.
I was elated to know that this young, energetic, fairy god-mother type not only exists but also teaches 2nd grade to my son. Short of coming over and reading him bedtime stories, he couldn’t love her more. Nor could I. However, if your child has a new teacher whom you’ve never met, here are a few things you can do to make sure your little one has safe treats at school:
Once you find out which teacher your child has, contact the school or the school’s website and send a very friendly e-mail to the teacher, addressing your child’s diet restrictions. Never offer up a problem without also offering a solution – like popsicles. If you have the time, offer to bring GFCF cupcakes for the next class party.
If you can squeeze it in, consider volunteering as co-room parent or party coordinator. If you’re like most of us and can’t fit that into your schedule, make sure you email those individuals, alerting them of your child’s restrictions.
Present your child’s teacher with a goodie box. Mine is a clear plastic shoe box with an air tight lid from The Container Store. I clearly mark each side with my child’s name and stuff it with GFCF treats like individual packets of Ener-G Foods Pretzels, Nana’s Cookie Bars (they are individually wrapped), EnviroKidz Organic Rice Bars, (the peanut bars are GFCF, but contain soy), KIND Bars (most are GFCF, but contain soy) and mini Ritter Sport Dark Chocolate Bars (contain soy) imported from Germany that I pick up at my local market. The teacher will always have something safe for your child for the next party or occasion, plus it relieves the possibility of cross-contamination. I also take this opportunity to include several all fruit juice boxes that don’t contain HFCS.
Whether you have small kids, or older ones with pockets in their backpacks for snacks, a few steps is all it takes to make sure they have safe food available when they need it. If you’re the one with restrictions, bring your own box to work full of individually wrapped almond packets, dried fruit, trail mix and chocolate (Trader Joe’s carries all of this stuff). We’re all creatures of habit and tend to take the path of least resistance, so make it easy for you and your family to eat safe, healthy food that’s convenient.