It’s back to school time! A fresh new school year awaits with new classes, new teachers, and maybe some new friends and activities. This is sure to be an exciting time in your life, but some things might give you those butterflies in your stomach. We understand, we get them too, especially when food is involved. When you are a gluten-free kid, you can do everything you want or need to do, but might have to do a little homework first and put some plans in place. We are here to make things easier with this path to help you along the way.
Jumpstart into the school year
Get ready to teach your teacher
When setting up your new school supplies, have your parents take a minute to prepare some things themselves. We suggest writing a letter to your new teacher, explaining what it means for you to be gluten-free and what they need to look out for. If your parents aren’t so sure where to start, we wrote a letter for them to use and have it on our website (archive.gluten.org/kids/letter-to-teacher). It would also be helpful for them to contact the school nurse, or ask them to give us your school nurse’s information and we will contact them for you! archive.gluten.org/school-nurse-education-program/.
Map out your meals
Did you get a new lunch box for school? Now is the perfect time to make a list of what you would like in your lunch and share it with your parents.
Be real with your BFFs
Do your friends know that you need to be gluten-free? They really should. Don’t be shy. It’s important to be honest with your friends and they will want to know! Just tell them that you have to eat a little differently and that there are some food that make you sick, so they shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t share a snack with them. If you make plans with friends out of school, make sure their parents know too, because we know that they wouldn’t want to give you something that will make you sick. It’s okay to not eat everything that everyone else has, but know that there are lots of safe foods you can share. It’s great to have a stash of Certified GF snacks around that you can share with your friends.
Rock the Party
Class parties, school celebrations and even birthday parties are sure to be the best part of the year! Surely, there will be food at the party and maybe it will be food that you can’t eat, but always remember that parties are meant to be about taking time out for a little fun, spending time with friends, and having a chance to live it up! Food is just a small part of it. Talk to your parents about how you can be sure to safely enjoy the party without feeling left out.
If there are parties in your classroom, send in a “secret snack box” filled with favorite snacks that the teacher can pull out at a moment’s notice. Some schools will keep safe snacks, like ice-pops, available in case a safe treat isn’t available – but you will only know if you ask about it!
If there is a pizza party planned at school, or another event where food is the focus (like Halloween or Thanksgiving), ask the teacher what is on the plan in advance so that your parents can make you something similar to bring in, give a list of safe food options or even suggest restaurants that would be safe to order from.
If the party is out of school, it is ALWAYS okay to ask what food will be served so that you can plan ahead. It is okay to say no to a food that is offered if it is not safe, and it is okay to bring your own food if no safe food is available. We like to bring along something that is similar to what is being served, and it can be fun to bring a little extra in case someone else wants to try it!
Sports Done Right
Do you live for sports? Are you on a team? It’s all about the game but sometimes snacks are involved too, and that’s a good thing because playing hard can make you hangry. Food = Fuel, so be sure that you load up on the healthy stuff to give your body the advantage. If your team is lucky, parents may send in some snacks and maybe the coach will treat the team to an ice cream or a pizza party. It is always best to tell your coaches and team parents about what you can and cannot have, so that they can try to make sure the food that is served is safe. Your parents might have to do a little extra work, sending in snacks, giving a list of do’s and don’ts, or having a Certified GF pizza in the freezer – ready to bake in case you need to bring something along.
Bake Sales Bonus Points
Lots of schools like to do FUNdraisers, where families bake up their favorite treats to share with others for a little money, which is often used to fund class trips or donated to a good cause. Bake sales usually include homemade cookies and brownies and sweet treats that probably aren’t gluten-free. Instead of skipping the activity, join in by baking up your gluten-free favorites and donating them to the cause. That way you can do a good deed, show others how yummy gluten-free can be, and know that there is a safe treat that you can enjoy too. Be sure to label the plate with a gluten-free sticker or even place a post-it-note on the plate.
Fantastic Field Trips
Class trips are the best! Are you going on a field trip this year? Whether your class will be visiting a museum, or an amusement park, or even an over-night stay somewhere special, plan ahead with your parents and teacher so that you know you can have the best time! Bring along safe snacks and have your parents visit our website (archive.gluten.org/kids/school-trip-letter/) to find a letter already written out, that you can use for your field trip.
Bring on the banquets
Have you ever been to a banquet? A banquet is a fancy meal, sometimes at a fancy place, where something special is usually celebrated. Sometimes there are sports banquets to celebrate a winning team, awards banquets to honor great achievements, and you can even include high-school proms in this list! Banquets are an excellent time to honor and be honored, but the food can get tricky. The good thing is, you usually have a lot of time to plan! If invited to a banquet, have your parents call the person who is organizing it, or even the location where it will be held – and ask questions. What is on the menu? Are there any gluten-free foods? Can they make you a special meal that is safely gluten-free? Lots of restaurants and food places are getting smarter about gluten-free, so you may find that you will be able to get a safe meal. If not, bring your own plate of food, sit back, relax and enjoy!
Have a great school year! If you have any questions along the way, you can ask us here at Generation GF and we would be happy to help.