Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Daycare Dilemmas

Explaining Etienne's dietary restrictions to the daycare providers took some time, and so far there have been a few cross-contamination issues that needed to be resolved.   I must say that the staff has been making a strong effort to support my son's dietary restrictions while not making him feel left out.  I still worry every day, and some days my worrying has been justified.  However, since we haven't even made it through one full rotation of the menu since he's been on his new diet, I'm willing to stick it out a little longer while all the kinks get ironed out.  I am aware that I may have to eventually provide all of his food from home, but hopefully it won't come to that.   

So, in case there's anyone else just starting down the same path and wondering how exactly to explain it all to the daycare, here are some tips to get you started.  Good luck!

Tips for Ensuring a Safe Food Environment at Daycare

1- Go straight to the top: Schedule a meeting with the daycare supervisor.  Inform the supervisor in advance that the meeting will take at least an hour.  Ask to include the person(s) in charge of food preparation if possible, and to have a copy of the recipes and an ingredient list for every item in every meal served ready for the meeting.

2- Bring reference material: Print out or photocopy an explanation of celiac, symptoms, and complications.  Include a food list and food preparation instructions.  Make enough copies for everyone who comes in contact with your child and one additional copy for the centre to keep as reference.  Ask to have your child's name and dietary restrictions added to the list that all child care providers keep of children with allergies.
The Canadian Celiac Association has information at www.celiac.ca and the website www.glutenfreediet.ca has a printable foods list.

3- Recipe Reference: Go through the ingredient list one item at a time.  Not just the general menu, but each recipe.  I made the mistake of thinking that the chicken drumsticks would be fine, until I learned that they're breaded first.  This takes time, but its worth it in the long run.  Highlight items that are off limits and ensure that the list is posted in the kitchen.  

4- Substitution Solution: Ask that extra portions of foods that your child can consume be packaged and frozen so that they can be served on days when the centre is serving something your child cannot eat.  Agree on which items you will be substituting, and then bring in portions wrapped in single serving sizes.  Ask about any ingredients (such as nuts) that are not allowed into the centre to avoid having food returned unopened.

5- Don't leave anything to chance: Provide the daycare with separate dishware and utensils for your child's meals.  Also provide a cutting board and any other cookware or utensils to be used in the preparation of your child's food.  Cross-contamination can occur simply by toasting gluten-free bread in the same toaster that is used to toast regular bread.  Crumbs are enough to make someone sick.

6- Keep track:  Request a copy of the menu and ingredient list, and keep track of what is served each day.  At least for the first little while, make a quick note of any reactions your child has and what was on the menu that particular day.  It makes it easy to spot trouble ingredients or potential causes of cross-contamination.

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