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Good Snackage

I have often hoped that I would never have a story to share, but alas, my time has come.

My kids participated in a community outdoor children’s play this summer. The organizers are friends of ours and this was the second year they have taken on, and we’ve participated in, this wonderful event. Getting 35 kids between the ages of 5-12 to learn lines , cues and directions is a momentous task.

This year, it was decided to form committees for certain things, rather than just have parents step in as needed. I signed up to be on the “snack committee” as well as help out with stage managing.

The “official” duties of snack committee were to bring snacks the last two weeks of practice when the entire cast would be present. However, since I was there almost ever night anyway, I generally brought some type of snack for the kids when they had a break. Personally, I hate the idea of snacks because they usually involve junk food. So I made sure I was bringing fresh fruit, vegetables from the garden, or something homemade, like zucchini muffins. But always something healthy, low in sugar and fat.

One of the snack committee members took it upon herself to become the “committee chair”. The second week of practice I received an email from her expressing displeasure over my snack choices. Her child has a gluten allergy and she was very angry that I was not providing something her daughter could eat. She went so far as to outline exactly what I could bring and if I was to deviate from this list, I should let her know so that she may provide something for her daughter.

Not every child was present each night for practice, and not all choose to eat snacks. So I was really surprised that her daughter would feel excluded to the extent that her mother would have to send such an angry email. I responded with my polite spine and stated that the “official” snack committee had not started and I was doing this simply because I had time. I said I would not make something special for her daughter, but that I would make sure there was something available for her. I did go out and buy some gluten free cookies for her, but I was simply not going to try and bake something gluten free as I know my kitchen is not gluten free.

As the weeks went on, I received email after email from this woman about how inconsiderate I was being. Now, I might have taken this better if her daughter was young, but she’s 12. Her mother never attended a single practice to even personally see what was being served. Her daughter, on the other hand, was very nice about it. She would simply walk up and grab the fruit or veggies. If there was something I baked that she was interested in, she would ask if it contained gluten and I would let her know if it did or if I had something else for her.

The week before the official snack duties started, I received an email from her basically stating that I was killing her child. Because of work, I wasn’t able to get a snack together for one of the last rehearsals before the official snack dates. She sent an email saying she was glad her message finally was received (thinking that I didn’t bring a snack because of her). She sent a follow up email to the entire committee listing out what they should bring and when, and letting us know she would be there to supervise. Her list involved a lot of summer sausage type meat, cheese and chocolate- none of which does well in the summer heat.

I did continue to bring the fresh fruit and vegetables though I kept them close to my folding chair (where I had been placing snacks the entire time) rather than putting them on the official snack table. My inner witch was devilishly pleased by the fact that the kids came to my area for snack, instead of choosing the other option.

Is it wrong to think that if your child has special dietary needs, that you should provide it, rather than dictating what someone else is doing? 0824-12

I’m a big advocate for personal responsibility and one’s health (or that if your minor-aged child) is specifically within one’s own sphere of responsibility.   It’s a form of entitlement to expect others to know your health limitations and cater to them in an educated manner.   If you have a gluten/nut/shellfish or any other food allergy, it is your job to manage your own food intake.

By offering fruit, veggies and healthy food choices, you were being a good snack mom.  What the 12 year old eats in the presence of such treats is her own responsibility as well as her parents’ to make sure she makes good choices.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ultra Venia August 29, 2012, 4:24 am

    Wait, isn’t fruit gluten-free? How is chocolate and summer sausage a more healthy option than fruit?

  • jen a. August 29, 2012, 4:46 am

    Agree 100% with admin. At the age of 12, the little girl obviously knew how to be smart about what she was eating. She asked about gluten, and stuck to the obviously non-gluten food choices. I feel a bit sorry for her – her mother obviously doesn’t trust her to make wise decisions on her own. Also, maybe Mom should have sent in her own gluten-free snacks from the beginning instead of criticizing what everyone else brought.

    I could see if the child was younger and had an allergy that could be activated by smell (such as a peanut allergy). Mom could politely request no peanuts, or at least inform other parents of her child’s allergy. A younger child may not have the maturity to watch what she ate.

  • koolchicken August 29, 2012, 4:49 am

    To the OP, you did nothing wrong. I can’t eat gluten myself, so I always make sure I have something with me for emergencies. But I am an adult. I can see a 12 year old not always being prepared, but then that falls to the parent of that child and not you. Now I could understand an angry email if you were going out of your way to exclude this child, like you were supplying nut or dairy free treats to some kids but purposely leaving out her daughter. But it doesn’t seem as though you were catering to special diets at all, just trying to make sure all the food supplied was healthy. If anything this woman (as well as all of the other parents) should be thanking you for bringing food so often seeing as you weren’t required to do anything more than the last couple of weeks.

  • lkb August 29, 2012, 5:00 am

    it seems as if the “powers that be” (i.e., those that oversee the entire children’s theatre program) could have been consulted after the self-appointed chairperson sent the email to the entire committee. The powers that be could have sent a letter to the entire cast stating what snacks could and could not be brought in, without pointing out anyone in particular. There also could have been a general warning, “we are aware that some of the cast members have food allergies, therefore, please stick to the items listed. Also, if a cast or crew member has a concern about food allergies, feel free to bring in appropriate food, clearly marked so as to avoid mix-ups. Thanks!”.

  • Margo August 29, 2012, 6:08 am

    It sounds as though you did just fine, OP. I’m curious as to whether/how you responded to all the further e-mails (I think I would have simply re-sent the original response, but I’m curious as to whet you did, or if indeed you responded at all)

    Did you reply to her list? Again, a response (cc’d to all) saying something such as ‘thank you for letting me know what you will be bringing. I will arrange to bring fresh fruit / veggies and wholemeal cookies (or whatever)’ might be / have been appropriate.

    I agree absolutely that it is the responsibility of the parent, or child once they are old enough, to be aware of their own needs and of any allergies or sensitivities. I think in a case such as this (where Mom **knew** that there would be snacks) it would be sensible for her to have flagged up at the beginning that her child couldn’t eat gluten, and to have **asked** whether gluten free otpitons could be available. However, as it was, there were those options. I also think it would be erasonable for the organisation / those providing snacks to make sure that the most common and easily catered for dietary needs/preferences are catered for – ensuring that at least one option is vegetarian-friendly, for instance, but I think that is a matter of courtesy, not anabsolute requirement.

    In a situation where you are providing snacks to a group of children, it does seem to me that it would be sensible for you (you as a group, not OP specifically) to include in the information/news letter to parents something to say “snacks will be provided at the the dress rehersal / final week’s practice and may be available at some other practices. If your child has special dietary requirements please ensure that s/he is aware that not all snacks may be suitable, and arragne to provide your own snacks if necessary”

    It sounds as if this Mom was way out of line, and in Op’s place I think I would speak to the chair / organizers to let them know how you were treated, especially if this woman is likely to be ivolved in future years. You seem to have dealt with her entirely appropriately but having someone with that attitude, level of entitlement and lack of courtesy could easily have put you (or someone in your position) off participating in future, and the organizers need to know how she behaved so they can make sure she isn’t put in a position to cause problems in the future.

    (as an aside, I can’t help wondering whether the snacks *she* provided were appropraite for everyone? It soubnds to me as though her list could have been unsuitable for vegetarians, for anyone keeping to Kosher or Halal rules, anyone with lactose/dairy allergies or intolerances, potentially anyone with nut allergies, depending on the type of chocolate….)

  • Lo August 29, 2012, 6:19 am

    What’s strange is that if you’re bringing fresh fruits and veggies there’s nothing she can’t eat there. It sounds like this woman wanted you to bake specifically gluent free items? And you brought gluten free cookies and she still had an issue?? She sounds like a control freak. I think you were really good to hold your ground there.

  • Green123 August 29, 2012, 6:32 am

    I have a nut allergy. I would never expect or ask anyone at an event like this to cater for me specially – and I certainly wouldn’t complain if there was nothing special provided for me. I’d just choose to eat the fruit and veg provided or bring a homemade guaranteed nutfree snack for myself.

    I think people who have (or who have children who have) allergies and intolerances are certainly entitled to tell people about their needs. I also think that in certain situations where it would be difficult or impossible to bring your own food to request (with good notice) a different meal or that items be left out of my meal. For example, at a wedding I went to recently, the dessert contained nuts, so the caterers ensured I got a bowl of ice cream and fruit instead – that was the same as the kids got, and it was perfect! At a work residential event I made the kitchen aware beforehand of my allergy and they let me know if something had nuts in so I could choose something else, or they’d just make me a salad. Professional catrerers are used to dealing with allergies, intolerances, religious and cultural dietary needs and, yes, fussiness! But something informal like a snack club? No! Bring your own or go hungry!

    (And well done to the OP for providing healthly snacks! There is SO MUCH junk food about at things like this that people must get fed up of fatty, sugary cookies and salt-laden crisps and sausage rolls. Good for you for giving a choice of something healthy!)

  • Julia August 29, 2012, 6:42 am

    I just wanted to comment how pleased I am that the daughter had been nothing but gracious. Hopefully she’ll never take after her mother.

  • Chris August 29, 2012, 6:57 am

    My only argument here is that if you are going to act in an official capacity, as you have, is that once notified of the allergy you should make a reasonable attempt to accommodate the allergen. I do not mean I think you should learn to prepare gluten-free, or dairy-free, or soy-free, or whatever foods. You don’t need to sanitize your kitchen and change your own diet and habits. Super markets, and more especially specialty markets and farmers markets, offer a wealth of allergen-free options or variants on popular items. My gluten-intolerant coworker picked up gluten-free bagels yesterday.

    Now by your own admission, you did exactly that! You purchased gluten-free cookies, made sure there were fruits and vegetables, and even made sure the snacks you provided were appropriate to the summer heat (the lack of heavy meats and cheeses). What I don’t think is necessary, and it sounded very much like the mother was trying to demand, is that you accommodate PREFERENCE. If the child cannot eat the zucchini muffins, but does not like the sliced apples you also bring, that problem falls onto the head of the child and the mother. Not you.

  • Jenny August 29, 2012, 7:00 am

    So the mom was freaking out because occasionally you brought one thing (among others) that her kid couldn’t eat? Yeah, that’s nutty. I have a food allergy myself, and as a little kid I learned to ask and just not eat it. You can’t expect everything to be edible and you have to teach your kid to be able to handle it by a certain age (certainly by 12) because you can’t always be there to make sure she doesn’t eat it. I had a bracelet and notes when I was little, but I was also taught to ask. All the mom had to do was inform the other mom of the allergy and say “Please don’t let Sally take anything with gluten.” There were plenty of other options for the girl, so it’s not like she went hungry.

  • Raven August 29, 2012, 7:06 am

    As a Celiac sufferer, I’m a little surprised by the mom’s reaction. A lot of people don’t know what Celiac/gluten insensitivity is, and cross-contamination is a HUGE issue – often moreso than actual ingredients. Why on earth would this mom trust a stranger to prepare food safely for her child? I eat my own cooking, my mother’s cooking, and that’s really about it. It’s not that other people aren’t smart enough; there are a lot of things to consider when cooking for someone with Celiac (or any other type of food allergy, I would imagine) and that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone – not to mention a lot of risk to take.

    The girl’s mother should have been providing food for her daughter, rather than assuming other people will understand how to safely prepare food for a Celiac.

  • Pam August 29, 2012, 7:30 am

    Wow- just wow. The only acceptable action I could see by the gluten-free mom would be to email the OP to politely let her know that her daughter had an allergy, but honestly, it sounds like the 12 year old had it pretty well handled. Yikes.

  • Otter August 29, 2012, 7:45 am

    “Killing” her child?! I would have reported that as high as it would go. She sounds like a law suit waiting to happen. At the least, she was trying to control your participation. Good on you for not caving. The world is not gluten free and it’s never going to be. Therefore, it is the parent’s, then the child’s responsibility to learn how to eat w/in it.

  • Vicky August 29, 2012, 7:54 am

    Snacks-why can’t each kid just bring their own? One of the things I never understood when my daughter played soccer was the need to need to take turns bringing a snack for the team. It is just downright silly to have to feed the whole team, consider allergies, likes/dislikes, etc. What is the big deal about packing your snack?

  • Marc Sulinski August 29, 2012, 8:24 am

    I don’t think fruits and vegetables have gluten, do they? I’m not sure why this woman had such an issue with you providing those.

  • Aje August 29, 2012, 8:30 am

    You DID offer a gluten free snack! You offered fruits and veggies!

    And what a weird mom…

  • Hemi August 29, 2012, 8:33 am

    This is the type of mom I loathe having to deal with. Instead of making sure her child had a proper snack and/or simply letting OP and the other snack committtee members know her child had special dietary needs, she became the email monster.

    After the first email, I would have deleted any email from this woman upon receiving it. No reading, no replying, just hit delete.

  • Tiffany August 29, 2012, 8:34 am

    I am really not understanding what the mother’s problem was, unless the daughter was going home and dramatically whining that you weren’t providing anything for her to eat. Which isn’t true, because she would have been able to eat the fruits and veggies, and if there were things like muffins that she couldn’t eat…okay. She’s twelve, and if she’s had that allergy for awhile, she should be used to not eating muffins.

    Good on you for offering healthy food.

  • Just Laura August 29, 2012, 8:35 am

    I’m confused as to how fruits and vegetables from a garden (or where ever) aren’t gluten-free. It seems to me that the OP was providing foods that were not only good for those with gluten intolerance, but also for diabetics and any child struggling with obesity.

    Perhaps if the OP had pointed out this obvious fact, the woman might have left her alone.

  • Kit August 29, 2012, 8:57 am

    My gluten-free child has known from the start (when he was 6yo) that he’s to stick to fruits and that cake that I gave him to take to school…

  • Cobbs August 29, 2012, 9:20 am

    If a person has an allergy, condition, or just a preference it is up to that person to accommodate it whatever the age of the person. The complaining mother in this submission is nuts. (I hope she is not allergic to nuts. HA) She is stalking you via e-mail for one thing. Ignore her.

  • Jewel August 29, 2012, 9:22 am

    I hope you let your organizer friends know how this woman behaved so they can discourage/prevent her from having any official responsibilities in their future theater productions.

  • Pixie August 29, 2012, 9:37 am

    I am a bit confused. Fruits and Veggies are glutton free, yes? So what was the OP doing “wrong” in the other mother’s eyes?

  • Roslyn August 29, 2012, 9:53 am

    Wow……just wow.

    I remember years ago reading about a school that banned peanut butter in the entire school because one child was allergic. I’m glad that wasn’t my school because peanut butter was the one thing that my son could eat for lunch and he packed a PB sandwich every single day from K through 12 !!

    I know that these health allergies/conditions are becoming more wide spread but it isn’t my job to see to your child, especially a child at 12 years old who can take control of her own eating rules.

    I also think that people are too quick to accommodate instead of all the committee people coming together and deciding what to do. I would present all those harassing emails at a “Snack Mom’s” meeting and say that you didn’t sign up for this kind of treatment!!!

    It’s become a very strange food world out there.

  • Heather August 29, 2012, 10:08 am

    I’m a mom with a daughter who has gluten allergies. We never assume there will be snacks for her, even at family parties we bring our own. This mother was an absolute beast and deserves to rot in eHell.

  • Molly August 29, 2012, 10:08 am

    My friend has a similar allergy story. Apparently one of the children at her child’s (public) school has a peanut allergy. Because of this allergy, no one in the school is allowed to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, no bake sales are allowed because someone might bake something with peanuts in it that might get into the hands of this child, and the mother takes it upon herself to castigate in as public a way as possible anyone who disagrees with the policy. The mother attacks by stating that anyone who disagrees with her has “no compassion” which makes it difficult to have an adult conversation. Wonder if the parents of kids with diabetes will start having sugary snacks banned on the off chance that one of the kids will offer one to a diabetic child. Parents like this and the one in the story who try to force the world to bend over backwards for their child are in for a world of disillusionment when they get away from the accommodating elementary/middle school years. And honestly, if your child is *that* allergic to a substance, perhaps you should home school until they are able to manage their medicines.

    The parent in this story clearly had a screw loose. Because one item out of several offered had gluten you were “killing” her child. Must be exhausting to live up to that level of drama constantly.

  • Cami August 29, 2012, 10:18 am

    This letter is similar to one from Dear Prudence in yesterday’s Slate. A mother has her daughter in a pre-school playgroup and received a nastygram email from another mother informing her that her provided snacks of veggies are wrong wrong wrong because they are not homegrown or organic and that the ranch dip she provided to go with the veggies will cause heart disease.

  • Cherry August 29, 2012, 10:21 am

    “She went so far as to outline exactly what I could bring and if I was to deviate from this list, I should let her know so that she may provide something for her daughter.”

    Aaand, this would have been the moment where I would have informed her that it would probably be quicker to assume that I was doing to deviate from the list every day. This woman is irritatingly pushy. She expected you to spend money on gluten free products (where I live, these things are EXPENSIVE – sometimes up to 5x the cost of the same product with gluten) and had the nerve to claim you were killing her daughter?

    I love the way she so grudgingly states that she will provide something for her daughter if the OP can’t. This option should be the default plan, not the back up plan!

  • Wendy August 29, 2012, 10:28 am

    It sounds like the girl was perfectly happy and mom either wasn’t listening to her (“But mom, I had FRUIT!”) or just wanted to boss everyone else around, using her daughter as an excuse. I like the way you handled it, OP. :o)

  • Wendy August 29, 2012, 10:33 am

    Um. . . what am I missing? Fresh fruit and vegetables ARE gluten free!! That Mom is weird.

  • AIP August 29, 2012, 10:58 am

    But the OP *did* provide gluten-free snacks (out of the goodness of her heart, I may add) in fruit and veggies. Using gluten-free flour for the “official snack period” baked snacks is one thing, demanding them from someone just being nice is quite another.

  • jena rogers August 29, 2012, 11:02 am

    That woman was being irrational, and I feel sorry for her daughter. The foods she ordered people to bring were clearly less healthy. What a strange person. I’ve had my share of overbearing parents in volunteer situations involving their kids. The worst were those whose enthusiasm collided with authoritarianism. They would take so much ownership of an activity that others were driven out of doing anything, and so the organization as a whole suffered.

  • Ann August 29, 2012, 11:22 am

    It sounds like the child was managing her allergy just fine. Her mother sounds like an overbearing, controlling nut case.

  • llamaqueen August 29, 2012, 11:37 am

    Simply stating, numerous times if necessary, that there are fruits and veggies available should have been sufficient, after that, I block her emails.

    BUT–gluten free is no longer an allergy thing. Gluten free is being toted as a more healthy life choice, not just for those have an allergy. Is it possible she was trying to promote gluten free, the same as some promote sugar free, fat free options for our children’s school lunches, snacks etc. and she was trying to get OP not to make those items AT ALL –not for her child but everyone else’s as well?

  • --Lia August 29, 2012, 11:41 am

    Agreed with all those who don’t understand what the mother was complaining about given that fruits and vegetables are gluten free, but I’m confused on another point as well. The daughter was gracious. The mother never appeared at any of the rehearsals. So the only way the mother knew what the snacks were was if the daughter was telling her and possibly complaining or that the mother was insisting that the daughter tell her what was going on. The complaint seems to be that the OP didn’t have to bring anything but did. She did bring something that the daughter could eat but also brought snacks that she couldn’t eat. The problem was that the daughter couldn’t eat everything offered. The problem is that the mother is continuing to try to control the daughter while the daughter is resisting in an effort to grow up and take care of these decisions on her own.

  • Jays August 29, 2012, 11:45 am

    I have some sympathy with the schools that ban peanuts because of one child with an allergy … because with some kids, the merest whiff of such a thing is dangerous. My son went to a school like this. Inconvenient, but we’re talking about a children’s life … and there’s nothing the child can do about it. He was entitled to an education, after all, and there’s no way a school be reasonably be sure that he cannot smell peanuts other than utterly banning them.

    This mom, though … no sympathy. Sounds like she wanted *everything* the OP brought to be gluten-free, which is ridiculous. I’m glad the girl was polite. 🙂

  • Gee August 29, 2012, 11:50 am

    I really hate this attitude. Your personal needs are not everyone else’s problem. I can’t have milk, so I carry packets of coffee whitener in my purse. I don’t get pissed off at someone for not having non-dairy creamer if they invite me over for coffee. That’s my problem!

  • Chocobo August 29, 2012, 12:02 pm

    Color me surprised that fruit and vegetables don’t count as a gluten-free option.

  • Another Lisa August 29, 2012, 12:05 pm

    I’m so glad the daughter seems to be a good kid!

    It sounds like the pushy mother was never there to see what snacks were served so she just assumed they were not appropriate.

    As an aside, this sounds like an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” where Debra’s snacks were deemed unacceptable by some snob on the committee.

  • Anonymous August 29, 2012, 12:15 pm

    As soon as I saw the words “self-appointed chairperson,” I knew the rest of the story would be a train wreck. In fact, someone upthread called this person a “control freak.” I think that that person has it about right, and that “self-appointed chairperson” is just a polite way of saying “control freak.”

  • Cat August 29, 2012, 12:24 pm

    The sense of entitlement this mother displayed boggles my mind. She does not get to dictate what you serve.
    Her first email could have been dealt with by replying, ” I regret that I cannot cater to special diets. Anyone whose child has allergies, requires kosher food, or has any other requirements should see that his/her child brings a snack from home to enjoy.”

  • Cat Whisperer August 29, 2012, 12:32 pm

    I’m glad my daughter is in college now and I don’t have to deal with such things anymore, but I remember when she was a kid and I ran up against parents who were like the mom with the gluten issues in this story.

    It seemed to me that there were some parents who felt like the whole world had taken a dump on them because their child had some kind of physical problem, and they were out to revenge themselves against everyone who had kids who didn’t have problems.

    While I feel for any parent who has to deal with chronic health problems that their child has, it’s pretty hard to maintain an attitude of sympathy for someone who turns their child’s problem into a personal crusade and who regards any transgression, either real or perceived, as an attack or insult to them and/or their child.

    One of the kids in my daughter’s day care had asthma. I edited the daycare newsletter, and I can’t even remember what the item was that triggered this mother’s ire, but she called me up and lit into me about my insensitivity and ignorance and how she was [obscenity] tired of having to educate every ignoramus who had never had to deal with the issues that parents with asthmatic children had.

    I didn’t even know her son had asthma, and I wasn’t sure who she was, and I asked her a question about what her son’s name was, and that set her off again because she and her son had different last names and she took my failure to match her up with her son as a personal insult to her single mother status and that set her off on a tirade again. Which was kind of ironic, because I had retained my maiden name when I married and my daughter and I have different last names.

    I was never able to appease this woman, and in the end I gave up editing the newsletter because she always had something snarky to say about it. I found out that she pretty much had a vendetta against every parent in the day care whose child didn’t have some kind of physical issue.

    She was an extreme example, but I’ve found she was far from alone: parents who turned their kids’ problems into crusades and became zealots in whatever cause this involved, and who regarded any failure or refusal by anyone to fall into line and join them in their crusade as a personal attack.

    These people just make me feel helpless. I feel sad for the problems they and their children have, but they just drive me away because I don’t have the energy, time or resources to become a zealot in their cause, or even to fake the kind of zeal it would take to appease them. Sad.

  • Rug Pilot August 29, 2012, 12:35 pm

    I have just returned from a restaurant convention where one of the main topics was gluten free food. One must make the commitment to serve gluten free and keep the kitchen isolated from any contaminants. It is not advisable to try to cook gluten free food within 24 hours of having cooked gluten food since the grain can remain in the air that long. Also separate containers, and tools are needed to prepare gluten free food. I advised my clients to avoid dealing with gluten free since it would be virtually impossible to adequately and safely prepare the food in their commercial kitchens.

    The child’s mother was endangering her daughter’s safety by requiring untrained people to attempt to prepare gluten free food in a kitchen not set up for it.

  • Stacey Frith-Smith August 29, 2012, 12:57 pm

    This mom sounds like she is a few french fries short of the proverbial Happy Meal. There is no rational reason for her actions and to try to infer one might have the consequence of producing a massive migraine. People who are completely out of order can be completely disregarded. (You need not even respond). Your snacks sound lovely and considerate and your little group was much better off for having had the benefit of your participation. Control freaks and paranoid or dysfunctional personalities can be found in all settings, but this sounds like a Lollapallooza of a “Stage Mom”. Of COURSE you are supposed to cater to her little cupcake, and do so exactly as she tells you, when she tells you and where she tells you. (Not!) Your Polite Spine probably inspired others who have had to deal with her.

  • PM August 29, 2012, 1:38 pm

    I was really apprehensive about agreeing to be my daughter’s class’s room mom because of this issue. (The room mom is responsible for organizing snacks for the class parties.) Just in my daughter’s class, there is one diabetic student, one gluten-allergic student, and one student with a serious allergy to peanuts.*

    But last week, I sent an email out to the other parents introducing myself and listing the class parties dates and snack policies. The parents of the special dietary needs students each answered with some variation of “Thanks for listing the dates, I’ll be sure to send a safe snack for my child to school on those days. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help organize safe snacks for the other kids, too.” There are some parents who know how to politely handle this issue without making it someone else’s problem.

    *The student with the peanut allergy’s parents have handled this with particularly impressive skill over the past few years. The mom has left a cache of peanut-free snacks with the teacher so if there is a special treat, bake sale, candy sale, etc., her son will have something to eat. The kids bring a daily snack to eat after recess. The kids have been asked not to bring anything with peanuts because they might touch something in the classroom and contaminate it with peanut oil, which would pose a danger to the allergic student. For the most part, they have followed this without problem. And on the rare occasion that a child brings something with peanut butter, the mom has asked the teacher to trade the “contaminated” snack for a peanut-free snack in the son’s treat cache. Since the mom provides good snacks, the kids don’t mind.

    The lunchroom hasn’t been an issue, because the kids in his class mostly buy their lunches. But if the allergic student spots someone with a PB and J, he has permission to get up and move to a different section of the cafeteria. Mom’s attitude is, “He’s going to grow up and go out into the world, where he’s going to be responsible for protecting himself from this allergy. He has to learn to do that now while he’s still young.”

  • Miss Raven August 29, 2012, 2:05 pm

    To me, this woman sounds like she really just wanted something to b*tch about. Some people just aren’t happy if they aren’t currently righteously indignant.

    I have two cousins with Celiac and one with a less-severe gluten allergy. My cousins with Celiac keep two toasters in their home and freeze all their gluten-full breads because the potential for cross-contamination is so potentially dangerous. They only trust foods prepared by family members and I don’t blame them.

    My cousin with the less-severe gluten allergy does not have cross-contamination issues, but does try her best to avoid gluten as it makes her quite sick to her stomach.

    I also have friends who have visited naturopaths who have given them medically-questionable blood tests (whether food allergies can even be detected through blood is still up for debate) letting them know they have gluten “sensitivities.”

    In my opinion, this woman sounds like the kind of parent who would take her daughter for a blood allergy test, freak out about the results, and then go mad with histrionics until her daughter moves out.

    This is a very roundabout way of saying that if her daughter’s gluten allergy was THIS severe (like, Celiac severe) and not just a natural-medicine diagnosis of questionable accuracy, she shouldn’t be asking complete strangers to prepare gluten-free food for her daughter. And I would have told her as much, and ended the conversation there.

    Say nothing of the fact that I remember clearly what it was like to be 12 (it wasn’t THAT long ago). Knowing to avoid snacks containing gluten, or knowing to bring their own, is something that anyone of that age can easily handle.

  • Heather August 29, 2012, 2:20 pm

    As others have pointed out — the fruits and veggies are gluten free choices and the child seemed happy with that. My guess is that the mother found out what was being served by asking the child, “So, what snacks where there today?” Perfectly innocent, and probably innocently answered, and then Mom went off to email the nastiness. There’s a good chance the daughter had no idea this was going on and likely, at 12, would’ve been horrified by it.

    One thing though, I have a wheat allergy and thus have to stick to many gluten free products. Most sausages and processed meats are actually suggested to be avoided due to the fillers possibly not being wheat or gluten free. If her daughter ate this, she was dealing with the distinct possibility of a reaction, and then who’d be killing her child?!

  • jen a. August 29, 2012, 2:26 pm

    Just a note to the people complaining about nut-free schools. This is a pretty common thing. In fact, as a teacher I’m always surprised when a school isn’t nut free. Peanut allergies can be activated by scent, so it’s a bit more difficult for a child to avoid it. There have been cases where children have a reaction after drinking from the same water fountain as a child who had eaten peanuts. I also think that it’s generally a lot easier to not eat peanut products than products containing gluten. I know we don’t live in a peanut-free world, but schools tend to be places where children spend most of their time. Because of the nature of a nut allergy, I think it’s a reasonable request for schools to be nut-free.

  • Merrilee August 29, 2012, 2:38 pm

    I just wanted to add something I think the other posters may have missed. The OP was providing snacks, NOT as part of her official duty as Snack Mom, because that period hadn’t started yet. So she was providing healthy snacks but out of the goodness of her heart.

    To me, that makes the mom even beyond more entitled than normal. If she was really all that concerned about her DD’s allergy, she’d have made sure she provided said kid with her own “approved” snacks.

    That just is gall beyond gall, to e-mail someone who is providing snacks and is not obligated to do so, and COMPLAIN about what is being provided! And to e-mail them again and again.

    What planet is that woman living on? Planet Meeeeeee?

  • travestine August 29, 2012, 2:55 pm

    I hate to ‘out’ a family member, but I have a sister nearly as bad as the OP’s ‘gluten-free’ mom.

    My cousin was having a very large 50th anniversary party for her parents (rented a hall, sound equipment, invited everyone they ever knew – which amounted to about 200 people, as they belonged to a couple of different churches over the years and were well-loved, besides having a big family). When my sister arrived with my niece, who has a severe peanut-allergy, she immediately went to my cousin and asked how they had accommodated her allergy. Since, in the rush of all the organizing, the peanut allergy (the only one in the family) hadn’t been first on her list of priorities (they self-catered and bought trays from Costco, etc. so it wasn’t a matter of ordering a ‘peanut-free’ meal from a caterer) and, as usual, my sister hadn’t brought ANYTHING her daughter could eat, there was nothing at the venue for my niece, which was in a semi-rural location.

    My sister insisted that someone (ie: anyone other than her) immediately go to the nearest store and buy something from the list she supplied and cook it so that her daughter would have a meal while everyone else ate. My cousin, being a very accommodating person, sent her son to get weiners and peanut-safe buns and a dessert so that my niece would have a meal. I was furious. My sister sees nothing wrong with this and thinks that OTHERS are at fault for not ensuring her daughter, as a guest, has a meal ‘the same as everyone else’.

    I have a number of food allergies (including one that sends me into anaphylaxis if I even breathe the same air) and I take responsibility for making sure my food is safe and that I bring my own food if necessary. I have no patience for those who expect others to cater to their children’s allergies when they take no responsibility themselves by providing the child with what they deem to be safe snacks.