Whether or not you have a child with food allergies, you can’t deny that the occurrence of food allergies is increasing. With statistics showing that there are on average 2 students in every classroom with an food allergy, these allergies affect all of our kids. As a mom of a child with a life threatening allergy, I feel very strongly about raising awareness of allergies, especially at school, where my kids spend most of their time. Here’s what you need to know about food allergies, and ways that we can all work together to raise awareness in our schools.
Awareness Starts With Education
Knowledge really is power in this situation. The more parents, teachers, and school staff understand about food allergies, the safer everyone will be. Believe it or not, you will find people who don’t believe that food allergies are real, or as serious as they actually are. Giving them the education and resources they need to understand the severity is the first step.
For my kids’ school, I start each year with a meeting with teachers and staff. We have a 504 plan that allows me to work with the teachers to set rules and guidelines for how my son participates in lunch, snacks, and celebrations. This gives me an awesome opportunity to educate and collaborate with the people who will be responsible for my son’s care during the school day. Learn more about 504 plans in this post. Basically, a 504 plan is part of a federal law that protects children with disabilities from being excluded from school. Food allergies are considered a disability in this context.
Aside from these formal opportunities for education, there are other ways to teach school staff about food allergies too:
- Join the school’s parent teacher organization (PTA) and speak up during activity planning to make sure all children can participate.
- Offer to educate parents and teachers on food allergy bullying by hosting a talk or providing reading material.
Food Allergy Bullying? What is That?
We already know that bullying is on the rise in our schools. Parents and school staff are now very aware that bullying exists and that it shouldn’t be tolerated. Even with all of this new information, people may not realize that children with food allergies are much more likely to be bullied for being different. Studies have shown that over 35% of school aged children with food allergies reported being bullied. That is way too many! The reality is that for children with life threatening allergies, bullying can be deadly.
Resources for Educating School Staff
There are many free resources available that you can give to teachers and staff at your child’s school to help educate them on food allergies. Here are some of my favorites from FAACT (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team):
FAACT’s Food Allergy Curricula are teacher designed Powerpoint presentations for different grade levels, designed to teach children about food allergies.
FAACTs for Schools’ Program is another program designed for schools that can be implemented school or district wide.
View all of FAACT’s educational resources here. There are single page handouts, posters, and more. All totally free.
I hope that this brief article has shows you new ways to spread awareness of childhood food allergies. I do my part as much as I can to educate and inform the people at my children’s school, and you can too. Remember, education is powerful.
Cindy Gordon is a foodie who loves to blog about gluten free vegetarian/vegan recipes on her website Vegetarian Mamma. Cindy's family is dedicated to finding/creating recipes and products that fit their families dietary needs. Cindy resides in Ohio with her husband and two boys (born '07 & '10). She enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, gardening, wine and cooking!