Thursday, June 10, 2010

Allergies and Lunch

Banned from school

Today, many kids have allergies, and schools must deal with them.  A few years ago, a young student’s airway started closing up and the school nurse gave her an Epi-pen shot.  This student is extremely allergic to peanuts.  Althought she didn’t ingest any nuts, the nurse believes this student accidently exposed herself to it while in the cafeteria.  As a result of this severe anaphylaxis reaction, my school banned all nuts on campus.

Allergies are scary for students and schools.  Parents don’t want food in their school cafeterias that could impart harm, or even death, to their kids.  Schools don’t want this either.  When it’s just a few ingredients like nuts, schools can find substitutes.  The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we make for lunch are actually sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwiches.  My kitchen carefully screens all new products and even foods we order for catered special events.  Too often we find nuts as garnishes or just hidden in the middle of a long ingredient list.

But what’s the right balance between accommodating one student at the expense of everyone else?  Nuts are a great source of protein and certain vitamins and nutrients, particularly for vegetarians.  It’s quite unfortunate for them. 

Next post: How my school is planning around allergies next year 


  1. Gosh, this makes me wonder if the "peanut butter and honey" sandwiches I ate in elementary school were really peanut butter. I kind of doubt it now, since they were in field trip lunches and they were the only option.

  2. Well done on trying to improve you schools food. I am amazed by how much canned food my USA friends eat, and packet stuff. Here we rarely use such things though Baked beans are a traditional food here. I look forward to seeing how you get on with your healthy eating move. A shame you could not make your own frozen ice lollies from frozen fruit juice ;-)

  3. That's a challenge. The school I'm at was peanut free for 6 years when one student attending had a severe peanut allergy. Now, we are not nut free, and hope to NOT put in such a policy, simply because it might cause a sense of safety when there is not control over what is brought in from home, changes in ingredients and so on.

    Of about 500 students in the school, this past year, there were 3 who have a severe food allergy, and 12 others who have some intolerance to specific foods.

    It's an interesting challenge to keep aware of which students have which allergy. Because of privacy rules, there's a limit to how we can inform staff, even though it's an important thing to know.

  4. It's such a tricky situation.
    My husband is allergic to nuts, but he was just always careful and informed and paid attention to his foods.
    I think that there's a need for schools to monitor to a certain extent and there's also the need for parents to be proactive in their education. A child with food allergies should bring food from home and be instructed to NEVER take food from other children.
    The teacher should be aware of all allergies and be asked to monitor the party snacks, etc.
    I think, that like all things, this needs to be a team effort.
    I agree that a complete absence of allergen foods creates a false sense of security.

  5. I read your article and was wondering if you could serve these foods but have a warning notice displayed at the point of service so that the children see this notice before choosing the item.