School Lunches can be a big issue for those with food allergies. In some schools particular foods are banned if a child is seriously allergic, in others they don’t ban. Some schools provide hot meals for children but might decide to exclude those with food allergies. There are many reasons parents can be disgruntled over school lunches. It is an important topic and one that affects every schoolgoing child that has a food allergy in some form.
I regularly join in a twitter chat called #ABAHour on twitter Monday nights at 9pm. Each week there’s a different topic, and many other allergy parents take part. The idea came about to start a blog link up and we chose the hot topic of school lunches!
Lunches in Our School
I make lunches each day for my boys to bring to school. Each school has its own rules but in our school there are two simple rules.
Healthy lunches must be provided, no junk food, a plain biscuit or plain baked good can be provided if a treat must be given.
Nuts are banned in Junior Infants and Senior Infants Classroom.
So far so easy for us. I am very happy with the first rule as it stops most of the comparing with other less healthy lunches such as ‘Alex had this today’ or ‘Maeve is allowed crisps in her lunch’ etc. Occasionally I will give the boys homemade treats in their lunches but that’s as far as I push that rule. While I found the nut ban in junior classes a little inconvenient when I had one boy that only wanted peanut butter sandwiches, I can understand why it is that way and I respect it.
This year we were notified of a permanent nut ban in my older boy’s 2nd class as one of his classmates has a severe peanut allergy. I think it is a good common sense approach by the school. I know that this kind of thing can cause annoyance and strong opinions among parents of children who don’t have food allergies. My own son who has had CMPA and is well used to dealing with allergies himself said ‘that’s not fair, I can’t have peanut butter anymore‘. I can understand this point of view and frankly it’s a pain for me to cut out nuts as well as milk products such as cheese from his lunch when he’s already limited. However, I can put myself in the nut-allergic child’s parents’ shoes and I know how important it is to ensure that their child has as safe as possible an environment at school.
I explained to my son how coming into contact with peanuts might make his friend very sick, and that it is not safe to have peanuts in the classroom. He understood and agreed once I explained it like this, so end of story.
However, I believe there is a long way to go with allergy education for many people including school staff. For example, I don’t know if they’d be as willing to ban milk from a classroom or wheat if someone was anaphylactic to those. Some of my followers on instagram have reported that foods such as kiwi, strawberries, nuts, raw egg, have been banned from their child’s classroom to facilitate children.
I definitely think banning specific foods from a classroom is good practiceif the seriousness of the child’s allergy warrants it. Banning nuts throughout a school might be overkill though. If it is a ‘just in case’ policy, should they be banning the other 13 main food allergens too? And what of the children who are anaphylactic to a food which is not one of the 14 main allergens? It all comes down to the perception that nuts and peanuts are the main dangers and the lack of awareness that other food allergies can be just as serious. Schools here give out milk to all the pupils between October and March, how many schools are aware of which children have milk allergies and know to take extra precautions with distribution of the milk and spillages etc?
In addition to banning particular foods if a child has a serious allergy, I would love to see lessons being given about food allergies. This would need to be done in a way that didn’t single out the child with the food allergy. Teaching correct hand washing, avoiding cross contamination and about not sharing or swapping lunches would be good life lessons for students in any case. This can be done in an age appropriate way and would go a long way to keeping the child safe.
Over to You
I would love to hear your views and experiences on managing school lunches with food allergies and how it goes in your child’s school. Are school lunches provided for everyone else and your child has to bring their own? If provided is cross contamination an issue? Are your school willing to ban your child’s food allergen in your childs classroom or whole school to keep him/her safe? Are you a parent of a child with no allergies who has to follow an enforced ban?
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