I’ve been to 3 events in the last 6 weeks or so. Two were events of about 300-350 people where we were fed morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. At one of these events we even got dinner on 2 of the nights. The other event was a training event with about 20 people.
At all these events I requested a gluten and dairy free diet. Some of the time I wonder if I should be that picky as I’m not officially diagnosed but have just learnt from experience. Well the other night I attended a small meetup and the only option was normal gluten filled take-away pizza. I ate a couple of pieces as I hadn’t eaten before going to the meetup. I was thinking that I was fine but then yesterday I was feeling quite achy for a few hours. The only thing I can put it down to is the pizza I had. So therefore I do think that I’m better off requesting a gluten and dairy free diet at events I attend.
All 3 events catered very well for dietary requirements. The first event had all of the special diets foods labelled very well so that you could easily tell which were the safe options for those on special diets to eat. The other large event had gluten free and vegetarian options, usually the same choice but it was only labelled on the boxes it came in.
At every event everyone was asked to only eat the special dietary foods if you had requested these. Although they were labelled they were usually put out on the same table as all the other food. People could easily take the food for those on special diets without meaning too because if you’re not looking for the special diet labels you may not see the labels. Fortunately at the first event they started to put the special dietary foods on a separate table slightly away from the other food. Apart from making it less likely for this food to be eaten by people who don’t need it, it also made it less likely for there to be cross contamination (an issue for anyone with a severe allergy or a coeliac).
I was very impressed by the catering for special diets for the small training event. They went out of there way to make sure everyone was catered for. This meant that lunch each day included making of a few dishes to suit everyone’s needs. One day we had quiche and they had made normal quiche, gluten free quiche, gluten & dairy free quiche, vegetarian quiche and another option for those who were vegan. Very impressive. Since they had a high proportion of special dietary needs they also made some things gluten free for everyone.
At every event I was very impressed that at each morning and afternoon tea break there was more than just fruit as a gluten and dairy free option.
Another noteworthy point from the first event which included communion in the worship service was that they only had gluten free bread, so this made it inclusive for everyone.
Overall event caterers are catering for those on special diets better and better. My two main suggestions are to make sure special dietary options are clearly labelled (see the above photos from my daughter’s 18th) and to put special dietary foods on a table separate from the main food tables. This way those who have special dietary requirements can clearly see what is safe to eat, hopefully you’ll avoid cross contamination and also avoid people eating the special dietary food which should mean there is enough for those who do need it.
Do you have any tips for catering for special diets?