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Home » Kids and Allergies

Why I won’t ask our school to pay for pricey cookies

Submitted by on Monday, 5 July 2010 3 Comments
I ran across a story this morning about a school district in South Dakota that goes out of its way - to the tune of paying an extra $40 for a case of cookies - to make sure that allergic children can eat school lunch. Just a few minutes later, Elizabeth at OnespotAllergy started a discussion about it on her Facebook page.

This all happened as I was wading through paperwork I need to send to the doc for the next school year. It included a form where I could have asked for lunch accommodations, but the only thing I'm going to request is a peanut-free table. Here's why:

1. Some of my son's allergies are so hard to deal with - garlic, for example - that I just don't see asking a cafeteria to take that on. Plus, it's SO easy to miss garlic as an ingredient since (a-HEM!) companies don't have to label for it. The day camp he's been at this summer bans outside food, and there have been near misses there that thank heaven his counselor has caught.

2. The school lunch menu in our district on any given day is so awful (and sadly, typical) that he's nutritionally better off brown bagging it. Which would I rather he eat - highly processed Beefaroni or homemade spaghetti? Canned fruit or fresh strawberries?

3. With the state of school budgets in California (and across the country) I just don't see asking a district to take on that expense. Parents already are asked to provide things such as copy paper and Dry Erase markers. I spent $80 last year on supplies for Big Guy alone, and next year that will double because Boots is starting kindergarten.

In that budget climate, every dime that goes to expensive cookies (that I could make and pack in his lunch much more cheaply) is coming out of an increasingly tighter bottom line. I can't in good conscience ask a school to spend extra money on something that is not educationally necessary.

Peanut-free classroom: No cost, and necessary to keep Big Guy safe. Peanut-free table at lunch: There's a miniscule cost in the few seconds it takes a cafeteria aide to wipe down the table, but I've been there during lunch and the quick swipe really isn't taking her away from other duties.

Allergy-safe cafeteria lunches: Labor intense, expensive and simply not educationally necessary. And if it's not necessary to ensure that Big Guy is safe and receives the education he's entitled to, I'm not going to ask for it.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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3 Comments »

  • Thanita said:

    Hi there! You had followed me on Twitter and I decided to follow you too! :) Your site is great! I completely understand your point. Keeping control of your child’s lunch contents is very important. My daughter is 7 and had completed 1st grade. She is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and garlic (we eliminated soy 2 weeks ago!). Throughout the year we had her at a separate, “allergy friendly” table during lunch. This slowly ate at her and she felt “different”. So one day she asked if she could eat with her friends.

    I had a meeting with the cafeteria manager, hostesses, principal, vice principal, supervisor of health services and both the food services supervisor and manager for our school. We were able to come up with a system so that V can eat safely without cross contamination. In addition, I took it upon myself to research the cafeteria food and found a few safe options. 2 months before school ended, my daughter was successfully eating cafeteria food and sitting on a “safe side” of the class lunch table. Some days she eats cafeteria food, others I pack her lunch. It’s a great set up :)

    BTW I filled out this form from the US Dept. of Education: http://www.doe.virginia.gov/administrators/superintendents_memos/2002/reg008a.pdf . Food allergies is considered a disability because it limits the life activity of breathing and eating. Therefore I filled out “YES” for the disability question.

    My county is looking into the same, offering allergen friendly snacks. I think it’s a good thing. I think about those families who are on the reduced lunch plans because they are financially disadvantaged. Some work 2 jobs and don’t have the time to research what is safe or can afford the safe alternative so their child goes without. It would help those families as much as mine. I am supporting the allergen friendly snacks through our county.

    I guess I think that at some point, our kids will want to have the same opportunities as others and offering an allergen friendly option will even up the playing field. For a long time, V had felt her allergies made her special, now that she’s getting older, it’s more of a burden to her. So any bit of “normalcy” helps.

    Thanks for a great post.

  • Debra said:

    Funny you should mention the shift from “special” to “burden.” Big Guy turns 7 in a few weeks, and he’s starting to go through that, too. Especially with pepperoni pizza, which I’ve yet to find a way to make safe. I guess I should learn how to make sausage! He was much happier with his peanut-free table this year than last, because there were two other nut-allergic kids in his class. I’ll see how it goes this fall – if there’s not, I will consider a buffer, but even that’s tricky. He reacted at the mall a few months back from smelling someone’s Asian food made with peanut oil – not even peanuts.

    It would be nice if there was a way he could eat school lunch, but with the garlic allergy in particular, I just don’t see that happening. And that’s the problem I have with school systems attempting to make meals safe for people with allergies. I just don’t see how they can EVER make it inclusive for everyone. Sure, they could ensure that meals are free of the Big 8, but corn isn’t even in the Big 8 (last I read, it was No. 9) and it’s becoming increasingly more common. It seems that no matter what they do, someone is going to be left out.

  • Thanita said:

    Debra,

    You are so right! It is nearly impossible to make ANY meals allergen-free. People are allergic to so many different things. I think for me, I get more irritated with the bday treats being brought in to schools. My school has now band bday food treats as it singles out those children who cannot have it due to food allergies, diabetes or other dietary concerns. I’m so pleased they’ve done this but it took a lot of work to convince the county to even entertain the idea that what they’ve been doing for years is wrong! Still, we’re moving forward :)

    As for cafeteria food, it is difficult to find what will be safe but it can be done. It’s a long process, I’m not going to lie! It took me days to call all the manufacturers that supply my daughter’s school to ask about their manufacturing process etc. In addition, I worked with the kitchen manager/staff to be sure that there is no cross contamination. Still, I pack her lunches on some days and compliment her cafeteria lunch with fruits and veggies because honestly, it’s lacking in nutrition. My daughter was “irregular” the first week she ate cafeteria food!

    I went to the FAAN conference in Baltimore, MD and found out some surprising statistics about the emotional impact of food allergies. Just so I don’t overwhelm your comment section, you can read up on it on my blog post:

    http://vickysickies.blogspot.com/2010/04/emotional-impact-of-food-allergies.html

    Well I feel like I’ve taken over your comments! LOL! Enjoy your summer!