By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT —Madeleine Stanforth wanted to eat hot lunch like the other kids at All Saints Catholic School. But the fourth-grader, who has severe allergies to eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, had to be careful about what was being served.
Her mom, Susan Stanforth, said the school’s food services director, Rose Rockstroh, offered to try to accommodate meals for Madeleine. However, “We were not ready for her to eat meals prepared at school,” Susan said.
Because of Madeleine’s complaints about “being the only kid that never got school lunch in her class” and then bringing the subject up with her doctor in Iowa City, “we knew it was time to let her,” Susan said.Parent Becki Hengl has two children with food allergies. Fourth-grader Gracelynn is allergic to nuts and uses gluten-free food due to gluten intolerance. First-grader William is allergic to nuts and is lactose intolerant.
“Rose has been amazing to our family,” Becki said. “All Saints couldn’t be luckier to have her.” Gracelynn began eating school lunch when she started kindergarten. “She is not severely allergic to nuts so we were comfortable trying. It wasn’t until second grade when we decided to do gluten-free with Gracelynn that we realized exactly how awesome Rose was for all that she does for the kids there. She immediately offered to do whatever she could do so that we didn’t have to send (Gracelynn’s) lunch every day. She has been amazing at finding options for Gracelynn and keeping her healthy. William started eating at school in 4-year-old preschool and they are great about keeping him safe without nuts and dairy,” Becki said.
Susan said she contacted Rose after deciding to allow Madeleine to try school lunch. They decided to try “Taco in a Bag” this school year. “Rose took the time to take pictures of all the labels, research the ingredients, and get back to me. Taco in a Bag was safe so Madeleine ordered it this fall for the first time. Madeleine came to the car after school that day and was so excited that she was able to safely eat the Taco in a Bag that we had to call all her grandparents to share the story.”
Gracelynn says she likes being able to eat with her friends, Becki said. Each month, both families print out the menus and mark which meals might be safe for their children. They check with Rose if they have questions or concerns about ingredients.
Rose, who has been at All Saints for 16 years and head of food service for about 12 years, said she has worked with several families of children who have food allergies. She has been available during school registration and at “unpack your backpack night” to meet with families in addition to taking questions by phone. She also works with the school nurse to learn of potential food allergies.
All Saints offers breakfast and lunch to its students throughout the school year. Although she can’t offer meals for all students with allergies at every serving, she is willing to work with parents and students to make accommodations, if possible, so they can participate in the meal.
She and her fellow lunchroom workers are diligent in trying not to allow cross-contamination. Rose said various foods are prepared in different parts of the kitchen. When workers switch what they are working on, they use new gloves. They do the same when serving the meal.
As trays and silverware are cleaned, some are wrapped immediately to prevent cross-contamination.
Madeleine said, “Mrs. Rockstroh is so nice. She always gets my food from the back and they even change gloves. All the lunch ladies know me and keep me safe.”