Gluten-Free Guide to Surviving Summer Camps

amy fothergill

Amy Fothergill

San Francisco-area chef Amy Fothergill had to put her training to use in a different way when she had two children with food sensitivities. Daughter Kate, 9, has flare ups of her eczema when she eats gluten or dairy and has food sensitivities to at least 13 other things. Her son, Santo, 11, has intestinal reactions when he has gluten.

Five years ago her family went gluten-free. Three years ago, they also eliminated dairy and eggs. While they never confirmed that Kate has celiac disease, they did do genetic testing that found that both Fothergill and her husband are carriers for the genetic mutation that people with celiac disease have and she’s noticed that she feels better herself without gluten.

Fothergill, who has a book “The Warm Kitchen: Gluten Free Recipes Anyone Can Make and Everyone Will Love,” offers us these suggestions for parents who have children with food allergies or intolerances, particularly gluten, about how to adjust to school and social activities.

Have good communication with teachers and other parents. Be vocal about what your child’s food needs are and be proactive about finding solutions. However, don’t expect that the teacher or parent will change what they are planning to suit your child. It’s nice when it happens, but not realistic to depend on that.

Try to pre-plan with similar food alternates. Fothergill finds out ahead of time when there will be a party at school or what a birthday party host will be serving.

If it’s not what her children can eat, she will make her children the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free equivalent if that is possible. A teacher even asked her to make the whole class gluten-free spaghetti for an event so that it wouldn’t be an issue.

Try to always have food on-hand. Fothergill keeps a freezer of food, especially baked goods for parties. She also sets up teachers with either pre-packaged cookies or frozen cupcakes they can keep in the freezer at school for when parties happen. Of course, on the occasion when her kids don’t have access to an alternative, they learn that “they can’t always get what the want,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait.”

Eat before an event. If her kids are headed to a play date, she has them make a gluten-free sandwich beforehand. If there aren’t good choices at the event, they won’t be hungry.

gluten free lunch bagBring something with you. She also tries to have snacks on-hand wherever they go.

Learn where there could be cross-contamination. They stopped eating things like corn chips and fries because of the cross-contamination that happens when a restaurant fries the onion rings or the chicken nuggets in the same fryer as the chips or the fries. She’s also learned to always ask questions even if you would think something like a risotto would be gluten-free, but you find out that that particular chef puts flour in his risotto. She’s also learned to look at beauty products as well.

Empower kids to be their own advocates. It gets easier with time, but her kids have learned how to talk to adults and their friends about their food needs. “It makes them independent,” she says.

That’s not to say there are never hitches. Last year, her son went on an overnight field trip. She had checked about what food was going to be served in advance and had made arrangements for some gluten-free alternatives, but when the actual trip happened, her son didn’t have access to the gluten-free food, and he didn’t want to ask about it. He paid the price the next day with discomfort.

With acknowledgment to