With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

24 August 2008

Eating at School with Non-Peanut Allergies

I often say our family is fortunate in that we only need to avoid peanuts and tree nuts.  A nearby friend has a child severely allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and milk.  Although her son is not school age yet, she is concerned about how he will fare at school.  How will the school accommodate his milk allergy? Currently, our elementary school has students with peanut, tree nut and sesame allergies, a few with shellfish and fish allergies, and one with an allergy to strawberries. The peanut, tree nut and sesame allergic children sit at one table, and the others appear able to sit at the “regular” tables.  I wonder what they will do with the milk allergic child when the time comes.  Peanut Free Mama discussed the peanut-free/allergy lunch table a few months ago and received a number of interesting comments.  

School lunch with a milk allergy can be particularly tricky because school children mostly drink milk at lunch and, let’s face it, they spill their milk frequently.  Nearly every day last year, my first grader would share stories about lunchtime.  I heard tales of kids touching other kids’ lunches, spitting food and drinks out (sometimes on other kids or their lunches), spilling their lunches, eating each other’s lunches, and buying and sharing snacks.  It’s amazing we do not hear of more allergy disasters occurring at lunchtime.

I’d like to pick your brains a little.  I am seeking some insight from those of you experienced with multiple food allergies at school and especially milk allergy. Can you shed some light on how it works (or doesn’t!) at your school?

  • How does your school accommodate the different food allergies at lunch and snack time?
  • What plans do they have in place to prevent food allergic reactions?
  • How do they manage severe milk allergy?
  • Are you satisfied with the way your school manages non-peanut allergies at lunch and snack time?
  • What changes would you implement to improve your school’s management of food allergies at snack and lunch time?


Karen said...

All our schools are nut free and our school board ruled against milk free schools. Milk is too much apart of our North American diet.

For severe milk allergic, particularly anaphylactic, a milk free table is used, often with an extra lunch supervisor, to help with clean up and ensure extra hand washing. Some parents choose to have their milk allergic child eat in the office; others prefer to have their child eat at a station, a few feet away from other children.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the many reasons why we homeschool our children. One of our boys is allergic to milk, egg, peanut and treenut. I cannot count on the school to keep him safe.

Anonymous said...

Every child has something special about him or her -- in our case the allergies are most obvious -- so think the one-size-fits-all approach that a school would have to implement will never really work. Basically, I don't feel it's the school's responsibility to manage my child's milk allergy...it's up to me and my daughter.

That said, it does help that our school nurse sends out a letter to all parents in my daughter's class to let them know what allergies she has. That way the kids sitting near her are more careful, and everyone washes hands *after* they eat so no one accidentally touches her things with their milky/peanutty/soy-covered hands.

I have definitely found that the other parents and the other kids go out of their way to make things welcoming for my daughter. They call me before sending in birthday snacks to see if they can make something that Maggie can eat, or if not, so I can send in something special just for her. This has been true since nursery school -- she's now in 3rd grade.

Overall, I think it's better to work on an individual basis with my kid and her peers than to try to institutionalize a school-wide approach.


Col said...

My son is allergic to dairy, eggs, and peanuts. He's still in preschool now (nut-free), and I believe the elementary school that he will attend next year (K-3) is also nut-free.

Right now at school he always sits next to the teacher at lunch, and they put his name on his cup of soy milk. Even so, he's had a couple of accidental exposures. But at least he's integrated with the other kids. My worst nightmare would be that he would have to sit alone, or in the nurse's office, etc. for lunch. I'll advocate to make sure that does not happen for him next year.

As for snacks, for this coming year his preschool just outlawed all outside snacks. They are encouraging parents to do nonfood birthday "treats", such as stickers or pencils. I think that is fantastic. Don't know what will happen in kindergarten with the holiday parties and such, but I expect that communicating with the teacher and other parents is key.

Modern Allergy Mom said...

My baby starts preschool in 2 weeks. It is nut free, but his allergies also include wheat, egg, sesame, banana and pea. I will be supplying his snack amd I have started a good dialog with the school about his situation. I am also working with the teachers to make sure that their crafts are safe.

I do not want him to miss out on experiencing school, but I do want him to be safe. I think this can be done by establishing an open dialog from day 1.

Jenny said...

Communication is key! Also, be prepared to provide the "safe foods"--don't rely on other parents to do so.

My daughter's new school now has a peanut-free table--due to the increase in the # of nut-allergic kids. I think as long as precautions are taken (at our school they have a strict hand-washing policy) I like to have my daughter integrated as much as possible.

Also, our new school discourages edible treats and limits the number of classroom parties. My daughter's classroom is "nut-free" regarding snacks.

These are all good steps in the right direction!

Anonymous said...

I am very interested in this topic. my daughter who is 5, has a peanut allergy. she goes to a wonderful peanut/nut free school. however, my son (1) has anaphalaxis to milk and eggs. i am already concerned about when he is school age!!! he is home with me and will stay home until he is school age. but this is a huge adjustment for our family. he went into anaphalactic shock when i tried to give him yogurt (his first dairy product).

Lunch Buckets said...

If my kids had allergies I would have been VERY hesitant to send them to the public schools they attend. I've eaten lunch with them - my eyes have SEEN things - horrible things. Seriously. I totally understand why someone might choose to homeschool for that reason alone.

Jenny said...

I don't think homeschooling just because of food allergies is the answer--public schools must, by law, accomodate students with disabilities. According to Section 204 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a severe food allergy is considered a disability.

While I don't like to think of it that way, I do think that our kids deserve the right to a public education. I'm not keeping them at home for that reason alone--if people have religious or cultural reasons, that's one thing. But according to the law, public schools must deal with this issue. It's not just one kid with allergies--it's millions!