My daughter’s kindergarten teachers are amazing. As the room parent (yay for being able to be closely involved as a food allergy mom in my child’s school!), I went into the classroom today to help with a few things as the teachers prepared for the start of school next week. While I was there, the assistant teacher said she wanted to discuss ways to be inclusive when it came to snack. Snack duty is rotated throughout the school year, each family taking a week to provide snack for the whole class. Last year, my daughter took a turn, but for the remaining weeks, she brought her own safe snack while most of her peers had “group” snack.
So today the teacher indicated she wanted to know my thoughts about how we could set up the rules so that all the kids in the class could eat the same snack. How awesome is that? Unfortunately, there were quite a few barriers:
- She didn’t have the list of “food allergy kids” and what their allergens are, so there was no way for me to advise her on specific all-inclusive strategies.
- We have a very simple and firm rule for our peanut-allergic kids: Never accept food from anyone other than Mom or Dad. For school, that translates into: Eat only what was packed in your lunchbox or sent from home and labeled with your name. Changing this rule makes me nervous and may confuse my kids.
- She wanted a list of safe brands/items and she wanted to insist that all families purchase only from the list. I have difficulty trusting a non-food allergy mom with the responsibility of selecting food for my child, even if she has a list of “safe” brands and specific foods. In addition, ingredients and manufacturing processes can change and what was safe today, may not be safe tomorrow. (And, yes, I’m fully aware of SnackSafely.*)
- When I pointed out the issue in #3, she suggested we allow only fresh fruits and vegetables for snack. I then explained cross contact and how seemingly safe fruit and veggies could be contaminated with allergens during slicing from cutting boards and knives.
- We, of course, have kids in the class with food allergies, but there are also kids in the class on special diets for other reasons (e.g., the GAPS diet), and I don’t feel comfortable shaping the snack rules that may be seen as too restrictive and/or too expensive to many of the other kids and their parents. It’s not a battle worth fighting since we had no issues last year with regard to snack procedures (my daughter is in a Montessori school and has the same teachers as she had last year).
In the end, we decided that we would request that the parents send in whatever they want for snack but that they also include an organic, uncut fresh fruit or vegetable. The fruits and vegetables will be washed and prepared for eating there at school. This way, every child will be able to participate in at least part of group snack every day (of course we’ll need to learn whether any of the children have a fruit or vegetable allergy and exclude those items from the safe snack list).
We feel so fortunate to have such caring teachers. I couldn’t help but walk away from today’s classroom visit with mixed emotions: grateful that they care so much, but sad and disappointed that I couldn’t have been more accommodating with their wonderful ideas to ensure no child was excluded due to food.
What do you think: would you have been less restrictive, more restrictive, or would you have set up the same rules as I did? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*SnackSafely provides a wonderful service and I would feel comfortable knowing that my daughter wasn’t surrounded by her allergens if her classmates brought items only from that list. But, for me and my husband, we can’t relinquish the control of feeding our potentially-anaphylactic child and known-anaphylactic child to another person; we feel that it’s unfair for another person to shoulder the responsibility of selecting safe foods, and it endangers our kids. Update: The folks at Snack Safely agree and publish their guide for the I reason stated: to ensure that the peanut/nut/egg-allergic child is not surrounded by his or her allergen. Thank you to Snack Safely for all that they do!
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