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.


08 January 2010

School Has Subway Bring Lunch in for Elementary School Students?

Yes, you read that right. We received an email today announcing that Subway would be providing lunch to two of the elementary schools in town on a designated day in the near future. The heading on the email was "Subway is coming!!!" It clearly was intended to be exciting news. It never occurred to me that a fast food sandwich chain would provide lunch at school. I thought to myself "What? The MBTA is going add a subway stop way out here?" But no, our food services department has kindly arranged a special day where students may purchase a turkey, tuna, ham and cheese, or vegetarian cheese sandwich from Subway.

As the parent of a child with a life threatening food allergy, a school sponsored event focused entirely on food was disappointing news, to say the least. Of course, this event is not terribly surprising. I had already discovered just how sensitive to the needs of food allergic students our food services department is a few months ago. See my earlier post, Bewildered by School Allergy Accomodations and the Lack Thereof. My child is in half-day kindergarten and accordingly does not eat lunch at school. If he attended full-time, as he will next year, I can imagine how left out he would feel. I do not feel comfortable with him eating at Subway. He reacts to very minute, trace amounts, and I have heard things about Subway that leave me feeling less than confident. Peanut Allergy Kid had a post about Subway in August 2008 entitled No Way Subway which confirmed my feelings of hesitation and discomfort regarding Subway.

So, as I head off to bed tonight, I confess my continued disappointment in our school department's food services decisions. I hope for increased awareness and sensitivity. I dream that my son won't ever feel excluded in school due to his food allergy but...I know. I know he will, just as I know he will rise above it and the grown-ups in charge who just don't "get it" or don't want to "get it". I knew this was coming, having read the stories of children and families who are further along in this food allergy journey than we are, and I am comforted by the knowledge that we are in good company.

10 comments:

RLR said...

Just wanted to share my experience in the hope that you'll be a bit encouraged by it. I have two children in public school - a kindergartener and a 1/2 day preschooler who does eat lunch at school. I have packed every lunch for them except one. My son, who does not have food allergies, asked to eat a 'hot lunch' one day. My daughter's class had a party (where all of the foods were approved by the allergy moms - 6 of the big 8 allergies in that class). My son has NEVER asked to eat a hot lunch again. My daughter knows that other kids eat 'hot' lunches, but has asked about them only a few times. I stress that the lunches we pack (I let them make many of the choices of what goes in their lunchboxes) are much healthier than what the school provides, and so far I've had no arguments. My 3.5 year old is also getting to the point where she asks adults "Does that have nuts in it?" Our school food service is nut-free (but I am still not comfortable with someone else's versions of 'nut-free'), but she's also allergic to eggs, and I'm not ready to cross that bridge with school meals.
I blog about allergies and lunches (among other things) at momsmagic.blogspot.com. Stop by to see what our lunches look like :) Best of luck to you as you continue to navigate the issues of food allergies in schools - and know that you aren't alone! (Forgot to mention, we did not participate in the Otis Spunkmeyer cookie sale fundraiser. I know it's for a good cause, but I didn't want to be selling something I wouldn't allow in my house/my daughter to eat.)

Anonymous said...

Our schools have had a number of these types of programs: Pizza Days, Sub Days, Italian Restaurant Days - all in the name of fundraising for the "family association." My son (milk, egg, peanut allergy) is in the 4th grade now and yes, it has bothered him to some degree over the years. On the flip side, he has developed a lot of resilience, as well as a deep compassion for others, that might have stemmed from (or at least was increased by) his exposure to these types of situations. I know it's difficult to see our children left out but I am given hope as I watch my son that they can make the best of it.

nortonwellness said...

People who do not have children that are affected by food allergies are often uneducated, misinformed and sometimes downright ignorant as to just how dangerous the allergy can be. As a parent of a child with severe egg,tree nut and peanut allergies I can tell you that I feel your frustration. I've had parents tell my son's teachers how "frustrating" it is to NOT be able to pack their child a PB&J sandwich. Walk a day in our shoes and those parents would quickly change their minds. It's not my son's fault he has these allergies, he shouldn't be made to feel like he is an inconvenience to other parents and students.

ChupieandJ'smama said...

Yea, my son would be totally left out. I can't imagine there's much wheat free at Subway.
We seem to run into this kind of thing all the time. I got an e-mail yesterday that they were thinking of doing hot chocolate for the class today and "could I let them know if there was a safe kind of hot cocoa that J could have"? So I went in the cupboard and got out our unopened can of hot cocoa and in the fridge for our unopened can of safe whipped cream and dropped them off at drop off yesterday. I'd rather supply the ingredients and supply for the whole class.
And they are having a magazine recycling contest. The class that brings in the most magazines wins a pizza party. I hope his class loses :( I'm sending all of my magazines in with the older non allergy child.
Why so much food at school?? I don't remember having all this food in school when I was a kid.

Anonymous said...

It's just one day and the food is relatively healthy for the rest of the kids. We have a peanut/egg allergy kid, the same age as yours, and he understands that sometimes he can't eat the food that other kids eat. If they had Subway day every day, or even every week, I'd understand your disappointment -- but one day in the school year? I think you're overreacting.

Jennifer B said...

Thanks everyone for your comments! True, it is just one day, but having had multiple conversations with the food services director, it is disappointing news in that it is just more proof that the food allergic kids aren't on the food services radar in our town.

kelly said...

good grief...i feel your pain on this. is the subway really neccessary? at a time when we're trying to introduce more healthy choices in school cafeterias in general, i just can't believe a school district would vouch for this. yes, i know subway is deemed "healthier" than most fast food, but it is still fast food nonetheless. and for those with food allergies, they're excluded once again. so sorry about this..

Vivian said...

I can't believe this. Thankfully my third grader is okay with bringing in her own lunch to school. We get the school menu a month ahead of time, and when I can, I'll make her something similar as what is on the menu. The school does have Pizza Wednesdays, so I'll make her a pizza for those days.

But, those school lunches aren't all that great. My daughter gets quite a few comments about how great her lunches look and that makes her happy.

I'm sorry you have to go through this.

Glennn said...

So what can Allergy Grocer offer to make your son's "subway day" special for him Jennifer? I would be happy to work with the food services director...

Glenn

Jenny said...

We have a "fun lunch" for each grade where food is brought in from a local eatery. Luckily, we can give our daughter the pizza--we've checked out the restaurant and it's safe. We've served her several safe items from there. However, she has a nut allergy only. Kids with other types of allergies would not be able to eat the offerings. I also send her dessert since it's "brought in" from a bakery. One year I made dessert for the class fun lunch.

I agree that food is used way too much in school. It's crazy. But I try to use these things as "teaching moments" for why we may choose to avoid certain foods, or how we go about determining if restaurant foods are safe.

Thanks for the post! You express the frustrations of many of us.

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