General chatter - What is your take on food allergies in schools?

05-13-2011, 11:46 PM
At my childs school we have the standard food alleriges. Peanuts, gluten, etc... Of course, I want every child to be safe.

When it comes to group activities, when parents are contributing food items, do you think that all items involved should be free of allergens for every allergy group? Lets say you have a group of 100 students and 5 of them have nut or gluten allergies, should all contributions also be free of allergens, or should the parents of those children bring "safe" foods for their own child?

Just interested to hear from people outside of the situation. Thoughts???

05-13-2011, 11:54 PM
I think it depends on the age of the children.

The older they are, the more they have to learn to be aware of their own allergies and cautious of foods that might contain allergens.

Younger? It doesn't hurt to try and provide more allergen-free foods.

Do I think every single item has to be allergen-free? Not necessarily. However, items that might contain allergens should be clearly marked as such.

Nola Celeste
05-14-2011, 12:04 AM
I don't think it's reasonable to expect every parent to maintain rigorous enough standards in a home kitchen to guarantee completely allergen-free food, so kids whose allergies are severe should have their own "safe" foods from their own kitchens.

If I were a parent of a highly allergic kid, I wouldn't let him or her eat stuff made in a home kitchen. That isn't a slur on anyone else's cooking, it's just that it's sooo easy for someone who isn't used to dealing with allergies to forget that flouring the pan might be enough gluten to cause a problem. Why take the risk? It should be the parents' (and the kid's) responsibility to ensure the child's safety.

Looking at it from the other perspective--that of a parent of a non-allergic kid--I would consider it a major PITA to try to account for Pete's peanut allergy, Suzie's strawberry allergy, Greta's gluten sensitivity, Charlie's chocolate allergy, Edgar's egg allergy...I mean, get together a sufficiently large group of kids and you're likely to serve nothing but distilled water and air.

05-14-2011, 12:38 AM
I think providing foods that everyone can consume is the most kind way to go....however, it's easier said then done. If all foods aren't acceptable for all kids, I agree that those with allergens should be kept separately. I have a child with food sensitivities and whenever there were events involving food, I would always either bring some for everyone or find out what everyone was having and try to find him something that resembled that item but didn't contain the off limits ingredients. As he has gotten older, there is less and less reason to worry about this because he knows what to avoid and has gotten more used to it.

05-14-2011, 09:27 AM
I totally agree that the kind and considerate thing to do is to be sure that the items are free of allergens. In our school (elementary) it's pretty much expected that parents will only provide pre-packaged things so that the ingredients can be checked. No one tries to cook at home for the kids (as a group), unless it's a parent of the allergic child.

It has been requested on many occasions that food items not be brought in for birthday parties since the parents don't want cross contamination to occur in the classroom.

For group meals, the organizers (which always include the parents of the allergic kids) are giving shopping lists to the parents. We can sign up to purchase specific brands of foods from specific stores, and even the fruit must be pre-packaged, from a specific store. Again,this particular situation is to accomodate less than 5 children out of a group of 100.

I confess, I'm having trouble with this. Is this a little extreme or am I just not a team player? Well, I suppose I never have been much of a team player, lol. I feel resentful that other parents are telling me how I can contribute to my childs events, but at the same time I feel really guilty about my crappy attitude because I would never want to expose these kids to anything harmful.

Nola Celeste
05-14-2011, 10:50 AM
Keep in mind that I'm saying this as someone who decided not to have kids,, I don't think you have a crappy attitude or a reason to feel guilty at all.

If a child's allergies are so severe that others must be presented with a shopping list, then that child's parents should be the ones to provide the food. Let other parents contribute financially if that's an issue, but otherwise, it's incumbent upon those parents to prepare special foods.

I'm actually a bit annoyed on your behalf at parents who are so cautious that they issue shopping lists telling other parents what to buy and where, but are totally okay with the possibility that the food could be prepared by people who really don't know how to "allergy-proof" their kitchens appropriately to deal with someone with severe allergies.

I don't know about you, but my home contains a TON of allergens and food-sensitivity triggers--peanut butter, strawberries, flour, citrus fruits, you name it. Although my kitchen is clean, I couldn't guarantee that my husband hadn't just made a peanut butter sandwich on the counter on which I'd be slicing cookie dough.

I wouldn't feel comfortable providing food for kids with life-threatening allergies, and I would tell the parents so. To me, their attitude stinks and sounds more like controlling behavior than genuine concern: "I'll give you a shopping list and tell you what you can prepare, but I'm A-OK with letting it be prepared in uncertain conditions because it's more important for me to be an interfering, dictatorial busybody than to ensure my kid's safety."

A pox on these parents who believe that looking concerned is more important than actually being concerned. I'd suspect Munchausen by proxy ( of at least a few of their ilk.

05-14-2011, 11:13 AM
One of my sons was in a classroom with two boys who were highly allergic to peanuts, including airborne. We were all sent a letter home at the beginning of the year, asking that we never pack anything with peanuts or peanut butter for our child's lunch or snack. We were told that if this was a problem our child could be transferred out of the "Peanut Free" classroom. We were told that each teacher had an Epi-pen. I noticed when I was in the room that the teacher had instructions taped next to her phone that included telling the 911 operator that she had administered the Epi pen and needed an ambulance equipped to tube a child. We were told that if we wanted to bring a snack for the class to celebrate a birthday, it had to be from a list provided by the school nurse. These boys had to eat at a table away from all others at lunch. I had no problem following those rules, especially after reading the notice the teacher had next to her phone.

05-14-2011, 11:36 AM
I think it depends on the age of the child and the severity of the allergy. If you have one of those kids who die if they smell the breath of someone who had eaten peanutbutter you obviously need to go to extremes.

this year our district has started sending out letters warning about allergies in every classroom. One child I have known for years and have fed regular store bought birthday cake to many times is apparantly allergic to eggs. I'm gonna guess he is ok to eat eggs when they are an ingredient in something because this is the first I'd ever heard of it.

Tea Granny
05-14-2011, 11:56 AM
That is a tough question to answer. My grandkids go to a peanut free school and there were lists of acceptable foods for them to pack in their own lunches so that the children with the severe allergies would not be inadvertantly exposed. To me that made alot of sense in kindergarten and the lower grades, but not in the higher grades. Eventually children must learn to protect themselves - it is not my responsibility in the long run. I must admit some parents do take it to extremes - there was an incident in the next town over where a parent campaigned to have the school cut down 100+ year old oak trees because her kid was allergic to mould. Get real!!! thank goodness it didn't happen.

05-14-2011, 12:53 PM
My question is, where's the line? Do you do this for only common allergens? Is it based on severity of the reaction?

My sister was just diagnosed with a LARGE list of food allergies. None of them are dangerous enough to cause anaphylaxis, but she breaks out in hives and rashes when she eats those foods (interesting sidebar - she thought she had an exercise allergy for YEARS, because when she'd sweat, she'd get hives. Turns out it was the allergen from the food seeping out in her sweat = serious rash). I can't imagine asking a school to restrict in-class food to not include her list of allergens (wheat, soy, rice, potato, sesame, almonds, cashews, pineapple, vanilla, egg whites, cabbage, watermelon, strawberries, white grapes, cantaloupe, bananas, and several kinds of shellfish). Then again, she's an adult and knows to avoid these things, but even if she was a child with the same allergies, would it be fair to restrict her class?

And what about a parent's diet of choice, and where is THAT line drawn with food allergies. For example, some parents of children with autism put their children on a restricted that enough to warrant changes to food for the whole class?

It breaks my heart that parents can't homebake treats for school anymore. I completely understand policies omitting allergens in a classroom when there is a documented airborne allergy (meaning that a child eating a peanut butter sandwich at the same table or in the same room could cause a serious reaction). I understand allergen-free tables, so kids don't spread an allergen with their hands onto each other, resulting in a reaction. I get handwashing after meals so classroom materials aren't contaminated. But I went to school with a child with peanut allergies and celiac disease. The teacher let his mom know when there would be treats, and she'd make sure he had something he could eat (she also had a drawer of packaged treats for him, in case something came up unexpectedly). We had to wash our hands after we ate, so we didn't get any peanut butter on communal stuff, and he sat at a special table, but he never had a reaction.

05-14-2011, 01:26 PM
Nola Celeste-Thank you!!!

One of my sons was in a classroom with two boys who were highly allergic to peanuts, including airborne.

In this particular situation these are not airborne allergies, although I know of one child that carries an epipen. And because of the foods that were allowed, it's obvious that cross-contamination wasn't a concern.

My issue has more to do with forcing the majority of the kids, over 95% of them, to eat the same foods as the kids with the allergy. If 5 children can not have cupcakes, should there not be cupcakes at the event?

I just don't get it. Maybe I would feel differently if it were my own child with the allergy, but I think I would rather provide "safe" food for my child than to ask everyone else to follow my rules. It seems to be a clique-y kind of thing that's going on. There's almost this "your with me or your against me" mentallity (in this school). I've talked to several people at the school to get other opinions and people seem to be afraid that if they don't agree with the food police they will end up blacklisted or something.

mandalinn82- I don't know where we draw the line. I do think severity is a huge factor, but try to question a parent on what's too severe and the lines get blurry again.

05-14-2011, 01:38 PM
My 5 year old cousin actually told her mom that she had to stop packing peanut butter in her lunch so she could sit beside her one friend. Lol. I thought that was cute that she was so worried about her friend.

I don't think a parent needs to ask for a complete list of allergies before providing a snack or hosting a children's part, etc. but if you know that one of the children are highly allergic to peanuts I believe it's best to then not give items for the class with peanuts in them just to be respectful. Overall it's the parents responsibility to prevent their child from eating something dangerous to them whether they are there to physically prevent it or they are sure to tell another parent or a teacher about the allergies. But I don't think they should expect other parents to never use the products their child is allergic to, they just need to teach their children that sometimes they can't eat what other children can.

05-14-2011, 03:00 PM
There is a girl in my son's class who is allergic to a number of things. Her mom makes her a special "cookie" on party days so she has her own treat she can enjoy. She has never asked us to not provide treats for anyone else. When we have snacks, she brings her own.

05-14-2011, 03:23 PM
I'm in favor of banning specific allergens from classrooms where there is a dangerous air borne type allergy - for example, my friend's college girl friend went into anaphalctic shock when her roommate was baking with ground almonds - they hit the air, she breathed in, and her roommate had to administer the epipen and call 911. If a child has a latex allergy, I would advocate a ban on latex balloons, gloves, certain toys, etc in class, because latex dust can be dangerous. Allergens that are completely confined to ingestion should be fine to bring and the parents of the allergic child should provide alternatives. People have very limited knowledge of food allergies and are very likely to accidentally include an ingredient that they didn't realize was just another name for the allergen.

As a parent, I would try to accommodate food allergies and dietary preferences to the best of my ability. For example, when my son was in kindy, there was a vegan child in his class. It's really easy to make vegan cupcakes - it would have been mean of me not to accommodate that! But when you have lots of different allergies and preferences in the same class - well, it gets hard to keep everything straight.

05-15-2011, 09:11 PM
Since 1997 food allergies in children have risen almost 20% :?:

The most common foods that cause allergies in children are:

Eggs ~ Milk ~ Peanuts ~ Tree nuts ~ Soy ~ Wheat ~ Fish/Shellfish

Other less common foods that children are allergic to include fruit and seeds.

If the above information is in fact correct (taken from the current Children's Hospital of Orange County magazine) I think maybe it is time that providing food in schools we as parents and grandparents, the school breakfast and lunch providers and organized meals from groups are eliminated....

That would be sad :( more birthday cupcakes/carb load pasta dinner for cross-country athletes etc. but it sure would solve a lot of problems...

everyone would be in control of their own food....not only would it save the states and schools $$$$ it sure would end a lot of issues.... with what an what not to make/bring to a school function...

05-15-2011, 09:35 PM
I don't think that the entire school community should have to accomodate children with such allergies- it's unfair to the non-allergic parents and their children.

Two of my children have allergies, one is allergic to bees and other stinging insects and he carries an epipen, another is allergic to penicillin. It's my job as a parent to make sure that they stay safe; I don't expect the school to do so, nor do I expect the parent's of my children's schoolmates to do so.

We also keep kosher (and are also vegetarians); I don't expect others to accomodate my dietary restrictions, and I would never imagine trying to impose that on a public institution such as a school. If we are going to a place where we know that kosher food will be unavailable, we travel with our own food from home.

05-16-2011, 01:00 AM
I was a vegetarian for about ten years, beginning when I was in fifth grade and ending at the end of my freshman year in college. When I went to bbqs or parties, I brought something to eat. At the 6th grade graduation party, I brought a pack of veggie burgers.

Now, I don't eat sugar or refined carbohydrates. I always bring a side dish, and frequently a dessert, that I can eat.

I'm not currently a parent, but I imagine that I would I treat a child's allergy the same way. As a parent, I would never ask the school to make any accommodations that weren't necessary (ie; if my child had an airborne peanut allergy, I would request a peanut free classroom, if at all possible)

I would rather raise my allergic child to understand what they could and could not eat, and send them with their own treats, than force 100 other parents to try and accommodate my child.