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Don’t blame the food allergic for ruining the party

Submitted by on Thursday, 4 February 2010 No Comment

I did a double cringe when the Valentine’s Day note came home this week from Big Guy’s school: “Due to food allergies, please do not send any candy, cupcakes or food items.”

The first cringe came because we’d already bought candy to go with Big Guy’s cards. It was the first year he’d asked to take candy early enough to actually do it, and I see no harm in a tiny sweet, so I agreed to buy it.

The second cringe, though, was because of the words “due to food allergies.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

There’s a girl with peanut allergies in Big Guy’s class, and I can’t say for certain that the request didn’t come from her parents. But I can say for sure that I have never, ever, ever, ever stopped any parent from providing any goody at Halloween, Valentine’s Day or any other holiday, as long as it’s not a treat with peanuts.

Yet, here we are with an unfortunate note that plays to the cliche of the parents of food-allergic children who want to bubble wrap their kids and, in the process, deprive other children of their “rights” to eat whatever they want, when they want. I’m not even sure when that became a “right.” It’s not in the Constitution that I know of,  though Big Guy’s right to a safe school environment is in federal law.

I see the blog posts at least once a week. A mom in one state’s upset because the beautiful strawberry cupcakes she baked for her stepson’s birthday were banned from his class. Schools in Boston canceled Halloween and pinned the blame on food allergies.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Folks, food bans at school parties existed long before the Americans With Disabilities Act offered protections for children with allergies. The bans have been popping up for the lamest of reasons for more than a decade – one state banned homemade treats because they feared meth addicts would contaminate the treats.

And now bans are all the rage, not because of food allergies, but largely out of fear of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its nutritional guidelines. That would be the same USDA that has its fingers in practically every school in America through its lunch program so don’t underestimate its sway. The same USDA that sets out zany guidelines saying vanilla cupcakes – store-bought only – are OK but chocolate isn’t.

It went from the USDA’s mouth to states’ ears, as district after district across the country rushed to ban all manner of foods. It seems strangely hypocritical given the content of the average school lunch, but that’s another rant.

I can’t speak for all of the food allergy community, but personally the ban on homebaked treats hinders my child more than yours. I guarantee you that you can buy an affordable bakery cupcake to take for your kids’ birthday. I’ve yet to find one for less than $26 a dozen – plus shipping plus an extra $5 a dozen because I live in California – that my kid can eat. Guess what? I’m not going to pay in excess of $70 so Big Guy can celebrate his birthday at school. I hope he doesn’t need counseling because of that.

And the ban on candy, as far as I’m concerned, is completely unnecessary from a food allergy standpoint. Big Guy knows he’s not to eat unfamiliar candy until I have a chance to check the ingredients. He’s known this he was 2.

So don’t blame us if you think Valentine’s Day is ruined for your kid. It’s not our fault.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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