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Southern New Jersey

I am a Mom to 2 amazing and fun daughters and wife to a great guy and a wonderful father!

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Kayla, my oldest. She is 4 1/2 and is a sweet, loving and silly little girl. She took us 2 ½ years and 3 IVF’s to conceive. Kayla is allergic to dairy. We manage her allergy and work to balance her safety with giving her a normal childhood. Kayla loves to read books and play games - she amazes me every day.

Alysa, my youngest. She is 3 years old and is a silly little spitfire. She’s our monkey and loves to climb on everything. She was a “natural” baby, but it was only b/c of my wonderful doctors that we were able to stop an impending miscarriage. Alysa suffers from Acid Reflux Disease and sleep apnea. She may be little, but she has a big personality. She adores her big sister and is so much fun to be around. She keeps me laughing every day.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008
A food allergy rant
Food allergy awareness has made great strides in recent years. There are many allergy-friendly options out there for those on a limited diet. With more organic and specialty stores, it is easier to shop for our kids and there are many snack and treat options for every day and holidays. Some schools are devising plans to work better with the allergic kids that go through their buildings. There are many people out there that are more than willing to help the families and kids by making accommodations and compromises for parties, play dates, etc. But even with all the progress that has been made, there are still many who either can not or refuse to “get it”. There is still a lot of ignorance and disdain for the children and families who suffer from food allergies.

A friend of mine, Lisa (name changed to “protect” the guilty) works for a school district. She was recently at a staff meeting and they were discussing their emergency plans in case of a lock-down of some sort. The Principal was saying that each classroom has emergency kits. They are buckets (or something) that has toiletries, bottles of water and food bars. Lisa asked him what they are doing for the children with food allergies. He said that the kids change classrooms (it’s a middle school) so they can’t know where the kids will be at any given time during the day. She continued to question him about having something for them and suggested only storing foods that were allergy-friendly. He then said, well then other parents would want their kids to have special water, etc. and that at the most the kids would be locked down for only 2-3 days and they “won’t starve”.

I can’t begin to tell you how sick that makes me feel. There are SO many things wrong with, not only what he said, but also with the situation and how they are handling it.

First of all, to callously brush off the health and well being of children is truly disgusting. These children are in your care while they are there. We, as parents (ALL parents) are forced to trust you with our children. The parents of children with special needs obviously have more concerns and are in need of some extra accommodations to make their children safe in the school’s care. I am not one who supports food bans OR mandates. But the bottom line is, until our school system changes, the public school system is bound to make whatever accommodations are necessary to keep ALL the children safe. Not just those without medical conditions. Those of us with special needs children are paying for that school as well.

Aside from the obvious reasons his comment is frightening (children starving for 3 days/ignorance, etc.), can you see these kids starving, and all the while watching their friends eat? For THREE days???

The way I see it, the school has a few choices.

-Either supply the boxes (in every classroom that an allergic child will be in throughout the day) with the regular food bars AND with food bars that are safe for THAT child’s allergies.
-Notify the parents of the food allergic children and give them the opportunity to supply the school with food bars that are safe for THEIR child’s allergies.
-ONLY have allergen-friendly bars in the emergency boxes.

I will also note that no matter what, the parents must be notified. It is easy to find allergen-friendly snacks and food bars. But they are just that, allergen-friendly. No food can be free of all allergens, so for the less prominent food allergies, the parents must be given the opportunity to supply a safe alternative for their child.

I am torn as to which I would prefer. My lack of trust in others (where ingredients knowledge is concerned) makes me lean towards me preferring to supply the school with snacks for Kayla. But, the whole lock-down scenario with no access to medical care, if a mistake in the height of an emergency were to happen, has my preference leaning towards only foods as safe as possible being available to the kids.

This also brings up another interesting aspect. This school, as far as Lisa knows keeps all epi-pens in the nurse’s office. What, if in the event of a lock-down, a child has an exposure through these bars or something else? In a lock-down that would mean NO access to their medication, let alone a hospital. It is not safe to have epinephrine stored AWAY from the allergic child.

As for the Principal’s “concern” about other parents requesting special water. Aside from the ridiculousness of that comment, the school is required to make reasonable accommodations. Safe food for a child in the event of an emergency, is not only reasonable, but necessary. A special brand of water does not even come close to reasonable!

I have encouraged Lisa to push this further and I hope she does. At the very least the parents need to know. I for one would have never thought to ask about the contents of an emergency kit in the classrooms. I would have never thought they had them. It is now on my list to ask Kayla’s school about when I contact them about their food allergy policies.

posted at 11:38 AM  

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Mamique said...

Great post! This was one of the main things we discussed at our local support group last night. I still have a few years to worry about it, my allergic kiddo is only 1 1/2, but it's great to know what I'll need to be aware of when the time comes.

I also am scared at the lack of understanding and sheer ignorance displayed by school administrators. I am hoping that with time people will become more educated and aware of what allergies truly are.

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Aaargh! Such ignorance!!

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Blessed said...

That makes me mad and so far my daughter seems to be allergy-free (thank you Jesus!) I am in favor of the school providing foods that are as safe as possible for these kits. Also there should be epi-pens in these kits and the teachers should know how and when to use them.

I do wonder if it is possible for parents of kids with allergies to provide their children with a few snacks to carry with them from class to class - I realize there is no way for the kids to carry three days of emergency food but a few things you know are safe would keep a kid from going hungry during a typical lock-down situation which would be less than a day long.

At 9:58 PM, Blogger Modern Allergy Mom said...

Yikes - I can not believe an educator made a comment like that! This scenario came up at my support groupo meeting recently. We have been discussing what reasonable steps the schools can take to help make sure our kids were safe. I was really struck with how complex the logistics of keeping all our kids safe can be. We have to figure out how to manage everything from class parties, lunch, field trips and even emergency lockdown situations! There are kids with so many differnt allergies and different severities that one plan does not necessarily work for everyone. I guess we all have our work cut out for us.

Thanks for raising some great points.


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