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Ensuring Children with Food Allergies are Safe at School

School is back in session and mom is nervous about sending her daughter to her first day of kindergarten. As a parent, I can understand. We don’t have control ovegaby pachecor what they eat, what other children bring to school, or if they would be subjected to bullying because of food issues. It can be nerve-wracking! On the other hand, schools are doing so much nowadays for children with special dietary needs.

Parents, administrators, food and nutrition services, and the children themselves can be a team ready to handle any situation at school. The child can concentrate on learning and trust that their meals will be safe and nutritious. Eating should be positive, safe and secure. Children need to know that the cafeteria staff “has their back.” Even at a young age, children can be aware of their symptoms and know when to ask for help.

There are federal regulations protecting children with disabilities at school. USDA’s website offers definitions, forms and guidelines to accommodate children with disabilities, including anaphylaxis which is considered a disability. On the state level, twenty states allow EpiPens in schools: some districts allow students to carry their own EpiPens, while others train staff on how to use them in case of an emergency. The Edmond Sun (Okla.)

In instances where there is food intolerance or even an allergy without an adverse effect as severe as anaphylaxis, the schools can but are not required to make accommodations. In most instances, the school is willing to make arrangements but parents need to be aware that it is not a requirement, and is left up to the food service director’s discretion. Of course if a medical authority indicates the child has to have, for example, a milk substitute due to an allergy or intolerance, and a statement is sent to school, then the school must comply.

Not only is the school aware of health & food safety, but the kids can be too! Let’s face it, most children are highly computer and mobile device savvy by the time they start school. Children can learn about allergies with interactive apps designed for kids. “The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies” based on Amy Recob’s book series, features characters that are allergic to the eight most common allergenic foods, including peanuts and milk. The tool lets children pick safe, healthy food for the BugaBees while learning about the choices they can make for themselves. The Washington Post

Successful nutrition management requires team work. So rather than worrying about what can happen at school, parents can contact the school’s food and nutrition department to be sure all forms are in place, cafeteria staff training has taken place and more energy is spent on making school a positive experience!

Other resources:

Kids With Food Allergies –

Food and Anaphylaxis Network – Food Allergy and Research Education (FARE)

Faankids –

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness –

School Nutrition Association –

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics –


Gabriela is a San Diego-based dietitian specializing in school nutrition on a national level. Fifteen years experience in the school nutrition arena in many capacities.  She also has experience in clinical dietetics, clinical research, and home health care for gestational diabetics.

She is presently a consultant for the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), The U.S Highbush Blueberry Council, The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in matters of school nutrition, including webinars.

Gabriela has several articles in peer-reviewed publications such as the School Nutrition (SNA) Magazine, and the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management.

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