Peanut Free Zone: Allergies and the Classroom
One in twenty-five American children have food allergies. But one parent’s nightmare is another’s nuisance when it comes to packing lunches and sending snacks and treats.
As someone with a peanut allergy, and a child whose school doesn’t have a hot lunch program, I am sensitive to both sides of the issue. It’s difficult to pack a completely nut free lunch when so many of my child’s preferences run towards foods that have the potential to ignite an allergy attack in one of her classmates. As someone who frequently has to decline snacks and is forced to eat off restaurants’ “allergy menus”, I know children with food allergies would gladly wish them away if they could. I also know that parents who ask for nut-free environments in schools are not just being overprotective.
One thing I have found extremely helpful is when school staff have clear rules about what is, and isn’t, permitted in terms of food stuff. I also appreciate the efforts of teachers and classroom aides who enforce “no sharing” policies at lunchtime.
The advent of snack foods clearly marked with possible allergy triggers, and the fact some companies are now aware of the issue of cross contamination, has made it easier to send lunches and provide classroom treats, too.
Some things parents can do when someone in their child’s class has a food allergy include the following:
- Ask for a list of “safe” foods for classroom parties or packed lunches.
- Substitute non-edible treats like stickers or themed pencils for birthdays/parties.
- Don’t be afraid of children with allergies and don’t exclude them from home parties or play dates. They can safely take part if simple precautions are taken.
- Be understanding of food restrictions. No child wants to be allergic, and his/her burden is bigger than your food prep dilemma
Awareness and Sensitivity
Options for school lunches have gone beyond the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches of my youth, and with the greater awareness of food allergies, there are many more options for parents at the supermarket these days.
Read labels. Be creative and sensitive. Food allergies are real health issues and some child’s parent will be grateful for your help.
photo credit: And cupcakes for all by popofatticus