While my kids don’t have food allergies, so many of my friends’ kids do. I myself have difficulties with gluten. During the summer, it’s easy for me to make the changes to our diet to ensure that we can all eat what works for us. However, I find dealing with allergies during the school year much more challenging – as a mom, as a Girl Scout Leader, as a homeroom mom, and as a lunch room volunteer.
My Children’s School and Food Allergies
Even though the title of my post sounds like I have the answers, I’m not sure that I do. I think my school is pretty typical of most schools. We don’t train our volunteers about food allergies. Food allergies are handled by individual teachers rather than a blanket school policy. Despite being a Catholic school which espouses values of social justice, I’ve heard of kids being teased for sitting at the “peanut-free” table. While I’ve seen teachers do their best to make sure they provide a peanut-free environment for one of their students with food allergies, I’ve also seen parents not be responsive to questions from school about their children’s allergies. I’ve heard of parents ignoring school policy at other schools, and going so far as to cut out the allergy information from an ingredient list if they have to send it in to school.
Food Allergies: Medical and Social Justice Issue
To me, not only are food allergies a medical issue that needs to be taken seriously, it’s also a social justice issue. We don’t live alone, or at least most of us don’t. We live in communities where we go to school, church, and the playing field with our friends and neighbors. We are called upon to look out for each other, and keep our brothers and sisters safe. This means taking food allergies seriously and equipping everyone who comes in contact with our kids with the information to respond quickly to an allergic reaction to food, AND to take steps to make sure it’s less likely to happen.
What I’m Doing
I’m starting to ask the tough questions. As a Girl Scout leader, I’m finding out if our required First Aid training includes what to do if someone has an allergic reaction. I’m talking to friends who have kids with allergies to better understand food allergies and what to look for as a reaction. Not all reactions are clear cut, and not all kids know they are having an allergic reaction.
I’m pushing my school to address the food allergy issue. I’ll be calling the school principal this week to talk to her about food allergies at school. I’d like the volunteers to get basic training for identifying allergic reactions to ensure a teacher is notified as soon as possible. I’d like the school to be a peanut-free environment as much as can be done this year. It would be so easy to specify which snacks are brought into school for birthday celebrations.
More to Read
I’ve pulled together a few posts written by friends who have dealt with allergies at school or in the homeschool setting. I hope these inspire you to push for changes at your school.
If I don’t Speak Up, Who Will? by Divine Health from the Inside Out
A Letter to the School Principal Regarding Allowing Candy in School by Divine Health from the Inside Out