So you have decided to move! It’s time to pack up your belongings, purge things you no longer use or need, fix and clean your house, load a truck and then…move on. Your life as you know it is forever changed. And, in many ways, that includes your gluten-free life.
My family did just that this spring. We sold our house in Minnesota in February, and my husband, two teenage daughters and I were in our new home in Colorado in April. Besides the obvious things on a to-do list for moving your family across the country—packing and unpacking boxes, taking care of utilities and registering kids for school—I knew we would have a lot to do to acclimate to living gluten free in Colorado.
With a little preparation and investigation, you can set your family on a new healthy gluten-free path in your new home.
Location, location, location
Where are you going to live, and what do you know about it? If you are moving to a remote area where gluten-free food is less accessible versus an urban city where everything is at your fingertips, you will probably have to work to find new gluten-free resources.
As soon as you move, connect with people in the gluten-free community, which is easier than ever thanks to Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Find people in the area who share your gluten-free interests and exchange information. We met our first gluten-free friend at our daughter’s school. She was a school employee in charge of registration and saw celiac disease mentioned on the paperwork. She explained she was also gluten free and would be happy to meet for coffee and talk about gluten-free food in the area.
Spend some time getting to know your new city or town and its amenities. When we chose our new town of Longmont, we knew it was close to Boulder, where gluten-free living is abundant. But we didn’t know much about Longmont itself. So, the first weekend we were in town, we explored the downtown and found a gluten-free bakery called Amie’s Love that also serves breakfast and lunch. It was an unexpected and delightful surprise! The local farmers market can yield gluten-free treasures as well.
Gluten-free accommodations at school
As if there isn’t already enough to organize and prepare for your move, you may simultaneously be enrolling your gluten-free child in school. We did all of the paperwork before we moved so it was ready to go when we arrived in town. During that process, I got in contact with the school district’s nutrition department to discuss gluten-free accommodations for lunch.
The nutrition department had me fill out paperwork, and they already knew my 17-year-old gluten-free daughter had an established 504 Plan, which discusses her need for gluten-free school lunches. The district was ready to implement our gluten-free request when my daughter found out her new school had open lunch. This was another bonus. Instead of eating at school, she came home most days for lunch (and other days went out with friends) instead of trying to figure out a new protocol in the lunchroom. That worked for us, but it was nice to have everything in place in case she had to eat at school.
For younger children, make sure their grade-level teachers and school nurse know about their gluten-free needs. A 504 Plan helps notify school staff. Check with the 504 coordinator at your school if you don’t already have one for your child. Don’t forget to inform some of the other teachers who instruct art or family and consumer sciences (home economics), where gluten can be present in projects. And at the end of the school year and around holidays, be prepared to help with food for special events.
Finally, check in with your children daily to make sure being gluten free isn’t causing problems for them emotionally in their new school. Everyone who knew my daughter in her old school knew she was gluten free and didn’t stare at her in the lunchroom, for example. But moving to a new school could bring with it a whole new set of emotional concerns (staring, being singled out, getting a lot of questions, teasing) that you and your child may not be prepared for. Asking about it may help your children get their concerns out in the open.
Accept the change
A family move may seem easy enough: pack up your old house, move, unpack and get settled in your new house. But it is much more complex than that. A lot of changes are happening within the family—and that goes for gluten free, too. A new location means you may not be able to find your favorite foods at the local grocery store. Our family uses certain products that I have spent weeks trying to find. If I determine it isn’t here, I may need to move on, ask the manager of my local store to carry the product, or order it online.
By considering and acting on these gluten-free needs during your upcoming family move, you can focus on the million other things that need doing in your new home.
Amy Leger is the family editor for Gluten-Free Living. She also blogs on her website, thesavvyceliac.com.