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Raising awareness about food allergies at school

Posted on January 10th, 2011 by Alison Read 10 Comments - Add Your Own »

schoolhouseI recently encouraged my daughter’s elementary school to put a food allergy program in place after the peanut butter incident. The principal liked my proposed ideas and I was able to address the entire school in an assembly on food allergies. It was well-received. In fact, my daughter told me today that whenever her classmates are eating something she is allergic to, they warn her: “Be careful, I’ve got peanut butter today.” These are first graders — it warms my heart! I have definitely sensed a heightened awareness since the assembly. I am working on the rest of the program which will be put to use at the beginning of the next school year. It is inspired by the ideas put out by The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), but with my own twist and with a more age-appropriate message for elementary school kids.

Any program that raises awareness at school is greatly needed. I have not advocated for a peanut or nut free school, and although it would make for a safer environment for my daughter at school, she is still going to encounter danger at the playground, parties, and friends’ houses. I believe that awareness is the key to keeping our kids safe, and that schools should have some program in place to manage food allergies.

According to the journal Pediatrics, food allergy is estimated to affect approximately 1 in 25 school-aged children. According to a publication put out by FAAN, a study found that 4 out of 6 fatal and near-fatal food allergy reactions occurred at school, and were associated with significant delays in administering epinephrine (the treatment for an anaphylactic food reaction). Again, it is important for schools to have a plan in place before a reaction happens.

A new law will help schools with the management of food allergies in schools. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) was signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011.

The bill will:

  1. require the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and make available to schools a voluntary policy to manage the risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools
  2. provide for school-based food allergy management incentive grants to support implementation of food allergy management guidelines in public schools

Thank you to FAAN for its efforts in creating this law and getting it passed!

If you readers have done something to raise awareness about food allergies, let us know in the comments!

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  1. You and I are definitely on the same page. Would you consider speaking at other schools (hint, hint)?

  2. Hi Gab! I absolutely would consider speaking at other schools. I had a whole powerpoint presentation that the kids loved. It would be nice if the school had a stipend for my time of course. 🙂 Let’s talk!

  3. GREAT WORK!!!!!

  4. This law is a great idea. But, it does not help my son, who has celiac disease. His gluten intolerance is not considered an allergy. I live in Buffalo Grove, IL and we are now fighting and probably suing are school district as they are refusing to provide my son a safe environment for special education services.

  5. Great job! My DD has a severe nut allergy. We have known this since she was 1 and a half. (Long story on why so young.) But awareness has been the best thing. I proactively meet with her teachers, instructors, school nurse and even the principal. Also parents of her friends know up front that she does have the allergy. She has a cute purse she carries that has her Epi-Pen and benedryl in at all times.

    At school her room is nut free and she sits at the nut free table at school. The cute part is that she is allowed to have a friend sit with her. From what I understand it is a bit of a competition to see who gets to sit with her. Like it is a special reward. LOL At least she does not feel she is being left out.

    Our daycare voluntarily became a nut-free school because of her. That I thought was very cool.

    Awareness is by far the best protection out there.

  6. Great job, Alison! I love that you tweaked the program to be age appropriate and that you are seeing evidence that it’s working! 🙂


  7. Shirley,
    Until today when my daughter received two treats with peanuts for Valentine’s Day! Oh well, baby steps.

  8. Hi, I have two boys with peanut and other food allergies. The peanut is the one that always worries me. Just read about the news today:
    My heart goes out to the family of this little girl.

    The incident makes me think tonight. My older one is in first grade and the school doesn’t do much about food allergies at this point. He is always nervous at lunch – they don’t have a nut-free table. I know a few parents who share my concerns. I would like to do something to raise awareness about food allergies, especially with nut allergies. I googled on the web and came across your blog. It’s a great idea to recommend a food allergy program. Do you have any suggestions on how I should go about doing this? What does the program at your daughter’s school entails? Many thanks in advance for your help.

  9. So So glad I found your website! I have many medical conditions/allergies. I believe I was always sensitive to many things before I was exposed to chemicals at my place of work and accident/clean up. Our daughter had Celiac. Something that runs in her father’s family going back 40 years. She is 5 and we are working with our town school to have her be able to attend for probably only parttime/4 hrs. a day 4 days a week to start out. She has shown sign of asthma/chemical sensitivities, (I can’t take anything for my medical conditions because I’m so reactive even to the medicaions!!!!)so we are having to deal with alot of stress and reading your info, stories and others situations REALLY HELP! Thank you so much for everything!!
    Our school has a nut-free policy. I believe it’s for the entire school. They have had it in place for quite sometime from what I have heard. I’v been so busy with all that I’ve been doing or at least trying to do that I just read all the info that was sent home and didn’t ask the school anything about it.

    We were given a Nut-Free Kindergarten letter,(covers cross-contamination) a list of Safe Snack Ideas, info on How To read A Label for Peanut-Free Foods, a paper about Reading Labels for Food Allergies – Foods & Ingredients to Avoid…

    I have a fax and would send you anything you’d like. I’m sure I could even get you in contact with the school/person who has coordinated all this or atlest can share how they went about it!

    Please just let me know. Keep positive, even through the tears. We are our families best advocates!!!


  10. Sorry for the type O’s. I’m so tired and working on the comupter isn’t something I can do for too long. If I send any other comments I’ll do better to read/correct them before submitting it.

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