Food Allergy PSA

I am having a communication issue with the kids’ school right now, and it is very frustrating.

My problem is that my older two kids have food allergies, and last year I expressed some concerns I had to the school about their food allergy procedures. I had three concrete requests for changes that I asked the school to address in this new school year.

Now, if they do not want to do those things, or do not have the budget or time to do those things, they should just tell me that. But their problem is that these things I have asked to have changed are part of the School Board’s official policy on allergies, so they really should be changed. But they are hard to change, so the school keeps telling me they are taking it under advisement and looking into it and considering their options, while they do nothing.

I don’t want to harass them because I know, trust me, I know, that teaching and administrating at a school is a very, very tough job. In addition to the long hours and dealing with kids day in and day out, there’s all the pressure from parents to do this or that, and once you let a hundred other people start telling you how to do your job, you find yourself in a position where you can’t do anything.

So I have decided to stop bothering the school with my requests because it is clear that nothing is going to be changed, and I know they do care about what I think and they do care about making the school a safe and happy environment and they are working very hard, but they can’t figure this all out, and so be it.

But I have also decided to write a post about it, because one of the things I wanted was a letter to be sent home to parents in my kids’ classes about their allergies. And this letter was not, ABSOLUTELY NOT, intended to ask those parents not to send certain foods to school, because I know it is completely unrealistic to ask non-allergy families to try to pack a lunch for their kid that does not contain nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, sunflower seeds, coconut, lentils, or chickpeas.

Rather, this letter was intended to let the parents know of a few small, simple things they could do to help. Because I really believe that if non-allergy families were told some concrete ways that they could make the world a safer place, that they would do that.

Here’s what I wanted the letter to say:

This is just a note to let you know that a student in your child’s class has the following food allergies: peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, coconut, lentils, and chickpeas. Please note that we are not asking you to eliminate these foods from your child’s lunch.

However, to help keep the school a safe place, you can do the following to help.

If your child has these foods for breakfast, ask them to brush their teeth and wash their hands before coming to school.

Teach your child not to share or trade lunch food, and to always eat lunch at their own desk.

Encourage your child to wash their hands after eating, with soap and water, to avoid the spread of allergens to common class areas.

And that is all. End PSA.

20 thoughts on “Food Allergy PSA

  1. MrsCarlSagan

    Excellent PSA. As a non-allergy family, I would absolutley be supportive of this kind of note coming home. Can’t the individual teachers send home this note or does it have to go through all sorts of silly red tape? We always get a note about peanut allergies requesting that kids who eat it at home brush their teeth and wash their hands before coming to school and no one bats an eye at it. Why is it rocket-science to tailor the note to a specific class? sheesh. I can understand why you are frustrated.

  2. We always get notes for all the allergies – peanuts, eggs, dairy – and they do ask us not to pack food containing any of the foods, which in the case of dairy eliminated pretty much everything Eve would eat. But the note only requires you to sign it saying you’ve been made aware of the situation, not that you’re agreeing not to send the foods – it’s some kind of weird cover-their-ass thing, but still better than what you’re getting. What you’re requesting is eminently reasonable and I’m not sure you should stop bugging them about it – sure, running a school is hard, but if they can’t handle something this simple maybe they shouldn’t be doing it.

  3. Pamela

    You need to escalate your concerns to a higher power. This is completely unacceptable. I volunteer at my daughter’s school to co-ordinate the anaphylactic protocol and a letter from each classroom with the specific allergens listed goes home on the FIRST DAY!
    The first newsletter also makes reference to this information coming home as well.
    Parents are always appreciative of this information and the children always amaze me with the care and concern that they show their allergic classmates. The school has a legal obligation to have a protocol in place (Sabrina’s Law) as well as their own Board policy.
    Your children need to see that these steps are being taken to keep them safe at school, it will support their own advocacy skills in the future.

    I urge you to pursue this with the Board if you are not getting anywhere with the Principle.
    Every allergic child in your school needs a voice… you know any of the other parents with allergic children?
    Good luck……be strong, they need you to set the tone!

  4. Thanks Lynn, this is good to know. We have been lucky (knock on wood) with food allergies. But I don’t see why all parents couldn’t do this. I know it’s something I will keep in mind.

  5. That’s weird, you would think they would allow at least a letter to be sent out, and yours is very balanced and reasonable. We are a no-nut school, but of course there are other allergies as well. My kids’ teacher has anaphylactic allergies to carrots, and I NEVER send carrots in their snack, just as a sign of respect. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask people to think about what they are sending – especially elementary aged children who, let’s face it, are gross and not always great about hygiene. But I think it’s important to remind people to brush teeth and wash hands after consuming certain foods.

  6. I could so easily go off on my own rant related to this topic (and have on my own blog) over our school’s lack of understanding of anaphylactic allergies. It infuriates me that this aspect of my child’s school life is delegated to a VP who really doesn’t know what they’re talking about . . . ugh, but that’s a story for another day.

    Good for you for trying. I agree that the letter you wrote is very moderate and balanced and although my own child happens to have life threatening allergies, I’ve always been a big supporter of doing everything possible to make life safe and still fun for those children.

    It’s honestly one time where I’m proud to work for an organization that provides recreation programs for children (actually folks of all ages) that has a fantastic policy with regard to life threatening allergies. It’s certainly much more effective than the Board’s.

  7. The school does have a form letter that goes home about class allergies (at least, my child in a different grade in the same school received a letter about a child with a life-threatening allergy in her class). Parents are required to sign in order to acknowledge they’ve received the letter. However, it didn’t focus on the 3 particular preventative steps Lynn mentions.

    I do agree as both a parent and an elementary teacher that the approach Lynn’s note takes (not eliminating the foods from the classroom, but teaching good hygiene to prevent cross-contamination) is very reasonable. It’s not practical to expect other families to restrict the foods they send to school when it includes foods (such as dairy and eggs) that are prevalent in our diets, but it is completely appropriate to request others to be mindful of the allergens in order to protect the child with the allergy.

    1. This is true – the school did send home a letter, in response to my request. But the letter was absolutely everything I did NOT want in the letter – alarmist, full of dire warnings about impending doom, and worst of all, the parents had to sign that they would not send in those foods. GAH. Then, when I got in touch again to say that the letter they sent was a little extreme, and all I wanted was the gentle warnings and suggestions as listed in this post, they RESENT THE ORIGINAL LETTER, AGAIN. GAH.

      I know they really tried to do the right thing but holy miscommunication!

  8. One of Nick’s buddies has a nut, sesame, kiwi allergy at school and we’ve always gotten a note. I’m not sure why they won’t advise parents of the problems.

    I’d contact the superintendent of schools, or the school board trustee about your concerns and how they’re being handle. The trustees are elected and are likely to get you a bit more action.

  9. We are a non-allergy family, but having worked in a place that had huge neon coloured signs warning against certain nuts that – even if they came in the building – could cause an extreme and life-threatening reaction, I am sympathetic to this issue. I understand that many parents can’t relate to the problems that allergies can cause, but I hope we all decide to teach our kids what they need to know to protect others. And, really, it’s not that much to ask.

  10. Jay

    Lynne – I’m surprised they wouldn’t let you send that home! When my DD was in JK I wrote a personalized note home. The Principal approved it and it went home. In SK I had the chance to talk to a few parents from the JK class and they said the note really helped them.

    This year, I have asked the teacher to send a reminder home in each newsletter. She went into her template and has already changed it for the rest of the year. Perhaps ask the teacher if s/he would consider adding it to their newsletter that goes home each month as a reminder?

    1. That’s exactly what I wanted – to write a little note and just have it sent home. Unfortunately the school seems to have a firm policy against letting parents send notices on behalf of the school (even if the school has a chance to read and approve it). GAH.

      I like your suggestion of talking directly to the teacher, but I’m betting the office staff will see that as a run around now. I’ll see if a good opportunity comes up this year, if not, I am definitely doing that next year!

      1. I think you stopped attending parent council? But I started bringing it up there too – I addressed as simply as – it would be nice to have a reminder on all the newsletters that come home. I have a child with allergies and am very aware, yet three months in to the school year I had forgotten what the other allergies were. I think all parents would appreciate a reminder. With homework, activities and lunches – it’s so easy to forget!

        Good luck!

  11. I got almost this exact letter from our day care centre (BCLC). I can’t see why it would be a big deal for a school to send it, but then what do I know.

    1. We are a non-allergy family but I have no problem avoiding potentially life threatening products in lunches. Every year it changes, depending on the class. This year we cannot send cucumbers, kiwi, tree nuts and sesame. It’s not an option and as far as I know, no one balks at this request. Your letter is perfect. Also, in our experience, classmates become very knowledgeable about allergies. Mine will read ingredients before packing lunches. They don’t want to make their friends sick, unintentionally. Good luck with getting your letter out…don’t give up! 🙂

  12. This is exactly the kind of note – polite, informative, helpful – that I would really appreciate getting. We are an allergy-free family, and our school is nut-free. We abide by that, totally understanding the importance of safety, but I do bristle a bit at the way the policy is sometimes framed – so accusatory, so blunt, so rude, as if parents are idiots who need to be told their place. Your letter is one that makes me want to participate willingly, not grudgingly, and surely that is something that makes sense for everyone.

  13. My daughter has a peanut allergy, and she goes to a school that does allow nuts, though not in classrooms with allergies. I’m OK with peanuts in the school and even in the classroom though, as long as the children and parents have the knowledge that is in your letter.
    I hope you pursue it and manage to educate the school on this one.

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