Tag Archives: food allergies

How should schools handle peanut allergies?

My four-year-old son, J. is starting Kindergarten next year.  He has a peanut allergy and I have been anxious about how it will be handled at his elementary school.  Not only am I worried about his safety, given that other children who eat peanut butter at lunch could have peanut butter residue on their hands or face, I worry about my little boy sitting away from his friends at the peanut free table. Logically, I know that it is unrealistic to expect the entire student body to go “peanut free” given that there are only a handful of food allergies in the population.

However, I know what it is like to have to adapt to keep kids with food allergies safe.  Before my son was born, my older daughter loved peanut butter.  Her nursery school was peanut free, so I made her soy butter sandwiches, which she adapted to very quickly.  My husband and I still love peanut butter (and miss Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups), but sunflower butter is a nice substitute.

Recently, I’ve heard that a few local schools in Massachusetts are now serving sunflower butter in lieu of peanut butter.   I wish that our school would stop serving peanut butter and serve sunflower butter instead.  I also wish the kids who bring peanut butter to school would have to sit at a peanut-only table, an idea some schools have in place.

Peanut allergies are so prevalent that teachers and parents and especially kids are accommodating and careful.  However, in schools it can be logistically difficult (from a manpower to a time issue) to keep cafeteria tables clean and hands and faces washed.   That’s what worries me, especially when my son has had a few allergic reactions that could have stemmed from peanut butter residue.

Boston’s TV news magazine program, Chronicle, just did a small segment on the hot button issue of peanut butter in schools.  When asked why not go peanut free one superintendent said, “It gives a very poor message- when we have a nut free environment…that there is something wrong and that we have to be afraid vs. to be informed.”

It sounds like there is a good deal of variation in how schools handle peanut allergies from town to town just in my small area of Massachusetts. Just as our state has a law in place for restaurants to address food allergies, it seems that our schools should have consistent guidelines.

And although the superintendent’s quote made a lot of sense to me, but I am still very concerned that my son will be leaving his safe, peanut free zone at preschool, to a school where peanut butter is served in the cafeteria.  I plan to volunteer in the cafeteria before he starts school so that I get a feel for how the peanut allergic kids are handled and hope I will be reassured.

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Post Halloween Commentary, Food Allergies: Does EVERY House Have to Give out Reese’s?

Before you get all defensive, I know the world does not revolve around me and my food-allergy-laden son.

We’ve known J. has had a peanut allergy since 11 months, when he broke out into hives when his big sister was helping feed him Cheerios while eating her peanut butter sandwich. He also has an egg and sesame allergy. He’s 3.5 now and knows that we have to read labels and always asks when we are presented with a new snack option outside of the house, “Can I have that?” (It’s responsible, but kind of heartbreaking to hear).

He’s fine bringing his own cupcake at a friend’s birthday party even though the big cake has Spiderman on it and his mom is not an expert cake decorator. We bring our own food for him and snacks most of the time, just in case.

This year for Halloween, I planted Vermont Nut Free foil wrapped pumpkins and other treats at some of the neighbors houses. But I figured I could always switch out the rest, because I wanted him to have the experience of trick or treating the real way.

Every single house had candy with nuts. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Snickers. Butterfinger. Almond Joy. They probably bought the mini candy bar variety packs. They probably bought what they like to eat. I can’t blame them for that.

But, it always much appreciated when there is an option, the recognition that there are SO many kids with nut allergies, two on our tiny street alone. A few of our neighbors had other offerings, like Skittles and Starburst, which was so thoughtful.

It doesn’t take much to buy an extra package of Dum Dums or something else, like Goldfish or Teddy Grahams, or Hell- give out a bagful of pennies as a nut free option. I understand the Senior Citizens who have no idea about food allergies, but for the other moms and dads presenting a bowlful of treats, don’t act so shocked that we don’t want the Reese’s.

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