School Snack Questions & Food Allergies

Primary School Pupils Enjoying Packed Lunch In ClassroomA new school year could bring another nail-biting semester for families with food allergies. Ensuring that your child will be safe in their new classroom is always a priority but are you asking the right questions each year? I’d like to share what has been very helpful with my son’s allergies and what you should consider discussing with not only the homeroom teacher but all of your child’s teachers. After all, any teacher or school staff member that will be with your child needs to know what is safe and what is not. To avoid confusion, it’s always better to discuss your thoughts about when and where so there will be less of a chance for why or why not.

“Are snacks brought in by each individual child or do the teacher’s ask for food donations from the parents?

This can vary from school to school or sometimes even grade to grade. Many schools are required to give the students a snack time so it should be no surprise when your child announces what everyone else brought in that day and ate near them. What you should find out is where the snacks are expected to come from. If the teacher is asking that parents send in snacks for the entire class, you need to discuss safe options that will work for everyone. Don’t be frustrated if you are met with a bit of discouragement- use that opportunity to meet new parents and help educate them on allergy-friendly snacks that all of the children can enjoy together.

“Can I provide a “Safe Snacks” box for my child?”

The topic of a safe snacks box has been a bit of a hot topic between parents within the food allergy community. Some feel that providing a safe snacks box may be seen as a negative experience- one that may make their child with food allergies stand out. There is also the flip side (which my family has been comfortable with) –not providing safe snacks could not only invite unnecessary allergic triggers but also leave your child feeling left out and isolated. Teachers who don’t plan ahead for children with food allergies don’t tend to think about the impact until after the fact. The important thing to find out is if there is an option to send safe foods for your child.

“Can I provide a letter to be sent out to all of the class parents giving them a heads-up about my child’s food allergies?

An effective way to let all of the other children’s parents know about your child’s food allergy safety is to draft a simple letter that gives brief but important details. Most teachers can include it with the initial paperwork so your letter will seem like part of the forms that need to be returned back to the teacher. Also consider that the parents who do not have an allergic child have hectic days and family plans that need to be addressed as well. Sometimes those reminder notes are more helpful than you trying to schedule a meeting time in between busy time. A simple example can be found here.

“How is snack time handled? Do the children eat at their assigned desk? Do they sit on an area rug? Do they move around?”

Kind of a multi-part, long-winded question but still important. Area of snack time and ages are two key factors when it comes to cross-contamination. If the classroom has younger children that don’t hand wash as often or try to share just for the sake of being nice, these are situations that need to be remedied before it’s too late. If there is a favorite rug or sitting area that also traps food particles dropped during snack time, perhaps it’s time to ask the teacher if foods can be kept in place that’s easier to keep clean up.

“Can I be a class helper at parties and celebrations?”

Only on a very rare occasion will you be faced by a teacher that refuses your help. With the growing number of children in the classrooms, teaches are very often grateful to get help with their class parties. I always say that I will be the silent helper with the Lysol wipes. In exchange for an hour or so of your time, you receive the benefit of spending time with your child, meeting their friends, seeming like the “cool” parent (as many others usually have to work) and you can quietly keep your eyes open for allergic reactions waiting to happen. Unfortunately, this will be harder to do as they get older and feel having a parent with them is uncalled for.

When in doubt, it’s always best to discuss everything far enough ahead to make sure snack time is not a scary time. Stay positive, stay involved, stay stocked with your child’s allergy medications and above all, educate others.

Food allergies do not just affect the children with them, they affect everyone that knows someone with food allergies or has witnessed a reaction.

Why not be cautiously prepared? There is nothing else better than to hear one of your child’s friends exclaim “She told me that if I eat something that makes me have an allergic reaction, she would take care of me too.” Snacks can always be replaced- a child’s life cannot.

About the Author

Tracy Bush is the founder and President of Nutrimom, Inc., also known as Nutrimom - Food Allergy Liason, a consulting business that specializes in providing guidance and support for anyone that has been diagnosed with food allergies. Tracy helps others with simple steps, such as finding safe, wholesome foods to supplement allergenic foods, where to shop and how to maximize their budget while adjusting to their dietary change. You can view additional information about what she does as well as her new e-book "The Stepping Stones to Food Allergies" at Tracy is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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