Those of you with food allergic children, has this ever happened to you? I overheard my non-allergic son, age 8, trying to persuade his peanut allergic younger brother to let him borrow a Medicalert bracelet so he could sit at the peanut allergy table at lunch. The 5 year old, being a very agreeable sort, was more than happy to lend a bracelet. I had to explain to the 8 year old that the teachers and aides know who has peanut and nut allergies and that he would not be able to fool them by wearing a "peanut bracelet". He wanted desperately to sit with some friends who have nut allergies, but each allergic child at the peanut allergy table can select only one non-allergic friend. The peanut allergy table accommodates abut 16 children in total; that is only enough room for 8 allergic children and 8 friends. (There are about 450 students in the school, and three lunch periods.) That makes the non-allergic seats highly desirable. If you're fortunate enough to have more than one friend, this could make lunchtime seating arrangements challenging...and almost political!
I have read that some towns completely eliminate the nut and peanut containing foods sold by the cafeteria, especially peanut butter sandwiches, to prevent cross-contamination and other related problems in school cafeterias. In those towns, children who wish to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home are still able to do so, only "hot lunch" is more allergy friendly. This makes it possible for many of the allergic children to sit with any of their friends who buy "hot lunch". What a forward thinking concept! Our school has not reached this point yet, actually finding ways to include the food allergic children. In some ways, however, the school is pretty progressive--we have a disabilities awareness curriculum for grades 3 to 5, and they are having a few "talks" about asthma and diabetes this year. Maybe next year they can include food allergies in the disabilities awareness program--since there's literally a file cabinet full of epi-pens in the nurse's office--and we can start talking about how to better include children with food allergies in the school community.