When Jenna Roman of Vancouver, British Columbia, created a GoFundMe to track down her son’s favorite waffles, she never dreamed of what it would become.
Roman’s 10-year-old son, Jerico, is autistic and struggles with extreme oral aversion and complex eating challenges, including a highly sensitive gag reflex.
“He was diagnosed with autism at two years old,” the single mom-of-three told TODAY Food. “He’s struggled with this eating challenge since eight months ago. We have worked with so many feeding therapists, but he regresses when he is sick and we have to start all over again.”
Last winter, Jerico got extremely sick and stopped eating and drinking.
“He does [this] with any sickness, even the simple cold,” Roman explained. “But this time it was so hard on him and traumatic [that] he stopped eating for 12 days and stopped drinking for five days. During that time, he regressed so badly, he had to re-learn how to eat and drink again, which was so upsetting to him.”
The only food Jerico could stomach? Waffles.
“[They are] Jerico’s lifeline,” Roman said, adding that Nature’s Path Maple Cinnamon Waffles were his brand of choice.
Unfortunately, Roman soon learned that the brand discontinued the product and she told TODAY she felt sick to her stomach about what to do next.
“My desperation turned to social media to help me locate the remaining waffles,” she said, adding that at the urging of a friend, she set up a GoFundMe to help cover waffle transportation costs. “I was just hoping that people could look at their local stores to see if the waffles were there and could grab them for me so I could pay them and get them picked up.”
It wasn’t long before the Canadian organic food brand learned about Jerico.
“We first heard about Jerico’s story last month after a few people reached out to us on social media,” Ratana Stephens, CEO & Co-Founder of Nature’s Path, told TODAY. “We heard how much he loved our Maple Cinnamon waffles, and how his mom Jenna was having a hard time finding them in stores, and we were really touched and wanted to help.”
Stephens shared that Nature’s Path made it their mission to track down any available waffles remaining in stores.
“We did a search across North America, and found eight remaining cases in our freezer warehouse in Illinois,” she said. “So we had those cases shipped up here, and then personally delivered them to Jenna and Jerico.”
But the brand wondered: What would happen when Jerico ran out of waffles?
“These were the last ones ever made,” Stephens shared. “So our incredible research and development team started working on adapting our commercial recipe for home use.”
The Nature’s Path team admitted modifying the recipe was more complicated than they anticipated.
“We use a lot of commercial ingredients in our production process that aren’t available at your local grocery store, and of course we wanted the ingredients to be easy to find,” Stephens said. “And we had to scale the amounts in the recipe way down. But our research and development team was determined to do it. They really went above and beyond, testing and tweaking the recipe.”
Start to finish, the process took about a month to develop before a waffle recipe was handed over to Roman and her family.
“They have come up with the perfect recipe that tastes just like the Nature’s Path Cinnamon Maple Waffles you used to be able to buy in the grocery store,” Stephens said. “It means the world to us to be able to help Jenna and Jerico. Many of us at the company were really affected by their story, and we are so happy we were able to help in some small way.”
As for Jerico, he has yet to try the new recipe — and Roman intends to keep it that way.
“Honestly he has no clue any of this is going on, because it would trigger more anxiety for him around eating,” she said, adding that she doesn’t intend on telling him when the homemade waffles enter the rotation. “I just am so appreciative for all the support, empathy, care from the community and really around the world now. This is just amazing how far Jerico’s story has gone.”