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The Trial and Error of Avoiding Potential Allergens in School Lunches

Do we know what are children are eating at school? Is Food Service communicating potential allergens to the staff that oversees the children while eating lunch?

As Food Allergy Awareness Week comes to an end, I want to talk about school lunches. This is a concern for many parents for various reasons. I prepared all of my son's meals until about the third day of school. The reason for that was because I could not send a hot lunch to school with him due to no heating element for the food to be warmed.

After speaking with school administration, I felt at ease knowing that he would be watched carefully to make sure that no potential allergens were put on his plate. He is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, peas, peaches, corn, green apples and kiwi. Food Service does not make items containing peanuts or tree nuts, but some children bring peanut butter in their lunch from home. That was okay as long as he continued to sit at the designated "peanut free" tables.

Throughout the year though I would get several phone calls from the school nurse asking me to pick him up because he was showing signs of a food allergic reaction, which usually was vomiting.

Under the advice of his immunologist, we started introducing corn back into his diet in February. Still he had incidents of getting ill. He is not allergic to tomatoes, but something in the spaghetti sauce, taco filling and comparable meals was making him sick. We thought we had figured out that it was just spicy, due to other children also not feeling well. Although, when I cook something that is too spicy, he refuses to eat it. Somehow I do not believe that spicy made him have an allergic reaction. Having food allergies is a learning process of what is a good balance of the nutritious foods.

Just about two weeks ago, chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, cherry yogurt, oranges and a dinner roll was on the menu. This completely had me wondering what was in the school lunches that made him vomit?    

Before he starts first grade, I hope to discuss with Food Service how vigilant they are at reading labels if nothing else but to rule out the top allergens in schools. I understand that sometimes the food is processed and not homemade, but if it is made at a manufacturing facility that processes peanuts or tree nuts, is that being communicated to staff? 

Has anyone else had any similar problems of children with diagnosed food allergies? How do the food service departments in your school districts handle it?

For more information about food allergies, go to www.foodallergyia.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

CFBusinessOwner May 23, 2012 at 07:32 PM
As a mother of a child with food allergies I understand your frustration. I would consider investing in a thermos that handles hot food so you could send nutritious allergen free food from home. ( e.g. I heat up leftovers from the previous night's supper and put it into a pre-warmed thermos) Anything you make has to be better than what is served in school cafeterias where most food is not fresh and is basically canned food that is reheated in one building and trucked across town to your school's cafeteria.
Kelly Williamson May 26, 2012 at 04:21 PM
That is a great idea Kate. I was used of sending his lunch to daycare, but in school it seems like such a chore to have them carry around so much. Backpack, another pair of shoes, medicine, and when he stays with his Dad- he has his clothes from the day before. I guess if it brings peace of mind, any amount of extra work is worth it.

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