Stories about: students with food allergies

The politics of food allergy

Image: Flickr/Dan4th

Food allergies are in the news again, and the conversation is getting heated. For starters, there was some national coverage around a Florida first-grader who’s so allergic to peanuts that her classmates need to follow special rules to keep her safe. The safety measures go beyond separate lunch tables and restriction of class-wide treats like cupcakes; all the children in her class need to wash their hands every time they enter classroom, and rinse their mouths out after eating.

To adults, the rules may sound simple to follow, but for a room full of 6-year-olds, most of whom don’t understand how food can be deadly for some people, the steps aren’t always so easy to remember. In addition to strict safety standards around food in the girl’s classroom, the school recently brought in a peanut sniffing dog to make sure there were no hidden allergy triggers lurking elsewhere in the building.

It’s a lot of regulation and upkeep for a small school, and some parents say the extra teacher attention, class time and money spent on just one child is negatively affecting the rest of the class.

“If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life,” said one parent at the school.

Michael Pistiner, MD, MMSc

Over a thousand miles away in Chicago, there’s another food fight brewing. In January, the city’s board of education passed a mandate that would require elementary schools to serve free breakfast in every classroom, providing a much needed healthy meal to thousands of children from low-income families. No one opposes feeding hungry children, but there is a segment of Chicago’s parent population that’s vocally opposing the program: parents of kids with food allergies.

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