School started today, and all went well. Until I got a call from my youngest son's IEP leader. It seems that the school lunch requirements have changed, and my kids can no longer get the gluten free and dairy free lunches provided to them by the school under the free lunch program (which we more than qualify for). The lunches that we worked so hard to get them in the first place.
I was told that they will no longer be provided with pre-bagged lunches, that they are required to go through the lunch line and choose their own foods, and that they are required to take the protein of the day. The lunch lady is legally obligated to put the protein on their tray EVEN IF THEY CAN'T EAT IT.
If I may be permitted to break that down in detail...
1) They will no longer be provided with pre-made bagged lunches.
Ok, this doesn't sound like a big deal, right? Until you consider that that tray of green beans is only gf/df until it's cross-contaminated by the wrong spoon, or something dripping/sloshing/crumbs falling in. Having their lunches bagged separately eliminated most of these possibilities, because they set them up as soon as the packaging was opened.
2) They are required to go through the lunch line and choose their own foods.
Again, not a big deal, right? My 11 year old is certainly capable of choosing what he wants to eat. So is my 9 year old. But do they know what's not going to make them sick? Not always. Do they know if something was seasoned with soy sauce (contains wheat) or if it's got milk or butter in it? No. Does the lunch lady know exactly what's in everything so she can guide them to the appropriate foods? Not always.
Not to mention, my 11 year old is very careful and conscientious about what he eats, and always asks me to check labels for him, but my 9 year old thinks that an upset stomach, diarrhea, and 3 days of misery is a fair price to pay for a piece of chocolate cake or a slice of pizza. That will really help the learning process.
3) They are required to take the protein of the day.
Sounds reasonable... why wouldn't they need to take the protein? Because cheese pizza is considered the protein of the day. A breaded chicken patty on a bun is considered the protein of the day. A hamburger on a bun, a hot dog on a bun, a taco with meat and cheese in a flour tortilla... these are the foods that they are LEGALLY REQUIRED to put on my kids' plates. My kids who are gluten and dairy free.
In this case, even if the other foods on their plate are gf/df, they'll be contaminated by the "protein" touching them. Oh, and the cartons of milk are held under this, too. My kids have to take the cartons of milk THAT THEY CAN'T DRINK.
I am furious about this. I have a call in to the district nurse to try to find out what the hell is going on, why they can no longer get the gf/df lunches that we worked out a specific menu and substitutions for, and why they have to be given things that they literally cannot eat. I know my 9 year old. He'll eat it if it's in front of him. He will then be sick and miserable for days.
We qualify for the free lunch program, and, to the best of my knowledge, the schools are legally obligated to provide them food that they can eat for those lunches. I'm going to have to make their lunches until we can get this sorted out, and, quite frankly, that's going to make it harder around here. I can only stretch each dollar just so far.