A mother in Canada can rest easier knowing that her son, who has autism, can continue to eat his favorite brand of frozen waffles even though they have been discontinued.
Jenna Roman’s 9-year-old son, Jerico, has extreme oral aversion, a highly sensitive gag reflex and other challenges that make it difficult for him to eat solid food. The condition, combined with his autism, makes it hard for Roman to find foods for Jerico to eat.
To make matters worse, an illness last year that Jenna suspects may have been COVID-19 further aggravated Jerico's condition. Roman said that Jerico practically had to re-learn how to eat solid food after he grew well enough to eat again.
Since then, the only solid food that Jerico will eat is Nature’s Path maple cinnamon-flavored frozen waffles.
Twice a day, Roman will make Jerico a smoothie with veggies, fruits, formula and vitamins, but otherwise, Jerico will only eat the frozen waffles. Roman says Jerico will go through about two boxes — or 24 waffles — each day.
But by mid-January, Jenna noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to find the waffles in the store. Several weeks later, she was able to get in touch with Nature's Path, which confirmed her worst fears — the waffles had been discontinued.
"What am I supposed to do?" Roman recalled thinking at the time.
She noted that she couldn't simply switch to another brand of frozen waffle. She said Nature's Path version was of a higher quality, while other frozen waffles were too "abrasive" — "like cardboard," she says — and liable to upset Jerico's sensitive palate.
Roman also says that children like Jerico who suffer from both eating disorders and autism can quite literally starve themselves to death if they don't have access to what she calls a "safe food." She feared that without the waffles, she would need to put Jerico on a feeding tube.
Roman says it's an issue that parents of children with autism often find themselves in.
“Most parents in my situation suffer in silence because of the harsh judgments people make,” Roman said. “(Other parents) don't understand that you can't just switch to another brand."
Luckily, by February, Roman was able to get the attention of Nature’s Path. She reached out for help in several local parenting groups on social media, and some group members happened to have contacts at Nature's Path.
"I wouldn't be able to do this without (those groups)," Roman said.
Though the waffles had been discontinued for several months, the company was able to find about nine cases of waffles that remained in their freezer in Illinois. Nature's Path quickly had the surplus shipped and delivered to Roman's home near Vancouver.
Roman also said her contacts in parenting groups were able to purchase about an additional dozen additional cases — enough for about a two-month supply for Jerico.
But knowing that Jerico would eventually eat his way through that limited supply, Nature’s Path put its research and development team to work. With guidance from Roman, it took them over a month to develop a home-friendly recipe that mimicked the commercial ingredients in the store-bought waffles, they eventually figured it out.
"The difference between a homemade waffle and a store-bought waffle is like black and white," Roman said.
On Saturday, Nature’s Path spokesperson Samantha Falk personally delivered the recipe and ingredients to Roman and Jerico. While it may take a few tries on a home waffle iron to nail down the texture, Jerico now has a permanent supply of his favorite food.
“We really hope Jenna and Jerico now have a recipe they can enjoy forever,” Falk told the Vancouver Sun.
While Roman says she has not had a chance to test out the recipe, she hopes to iron out any kinks in the next few weeks. She then hopes to eventually partner with a local chef to help make the waffles in bulk in the hopes of keeping a consistent texture and making it easier for Jerico to eat.
Remember the story of Jerico and the @NaturesPath Maple Cinnamon waffles? Well, I am so happy to say our incredible R&D Team was able to adapt our recipe for home use - and we delivered the recipe and all the ingredients to Jerico & his mom Jenna today. Bon appetit!! 🧇 🧇 pic.twitter.com/0l22DqrLQm— Samantha Falk (@samantha_falk) March 6, 2021
You can follow along with Jerico's journey at Roman's Facebook page, Waffles for Jerico.