Back to School Food Allergy Advice
Back to school can be a daunting time of year for food allergic families, and finding the strategy that is right for you is a great first step in feeling prepared. Today, we hear from three experienced Spokin users with a range of food allergies and some excellent advice!
Danielle is a physical therapist and the mother of 3 children. Danielle was responsible for establishing the first food allergy policy in not only her school but her entire school district, 109, which includes a preschool, four elementary schools, and two junior high schools.
Danielle's Top Back To School Tips:
1. Establish a 504 Plan: I highly recommend establishing a 504 plan. The plan will establish the guidelines to care for your child, and it's your opportunity to customize care such as having bus drivers trained. See below for more tips on 504 plans.
2. Meet and Specify: Meet with teachers before school starts to review expectations of safety for your child. Review where EpiPens will be located and establish a recess protocol for having EpiPens given to a supervisor, especially if recess is right after lunch.
3. Educate your Child: Talk to your child about how to manage lunchtime and snacks, so they are prepared to handle situations on their own. I use the mottos: "If you can't read it, don't eat it!" for my child and "if you can't read it, don't feed it!" for the teacher.
Maggie is a freelance photographer and the mother of 3 daughters. She actively contributes to the food allergy community through her participation in FARE Chicago, advocacy work, and helping countless families navigate school food allergy policies.
Maggie's Top Back To School Tips:
1. Update the Weight: Before school starts, update your plan to reflect your child's current height and weight (for accurate medication dosage) and any new instructions.
2. Meet and Greet: Meet with the school nurse, teachers, assistant teachers, and anyone else that oversees your child. Walk through symptoms both mild and severe and the instructions and care in both situations.
3. Train and Practice: Bring in expired epi-pens and simulate administration by practicing on oranges. "I don't want their first-time experience using an Epi to be on my child during an emergency."
4. Make Lunch Plans: Managing the lunchroom is essential especially when dealing with multiple allergens across multiple children. Plan ahead as much as you can by understanding the cafeteria meal schedules.
Kit's Top Back to School Tips:
1. Do Your Homework: I schedule my children's annual checkup for the end of July, so I can use the appointment as an opportunity to get organized. Two weeks before school, I reach out and refresh staff about our needs.
2. Look In Uncommon Places: Continuously check in and ask your child's teachers about any lesson plans or projects that might incorporate food. Food and food containers are often used as a creative medium for lessons such as pie for Pi day, egg and milk cartons for Math class, or pasta for Art projects. Foreign Language, Language Arts, and Science are classes to watch closely.
3. Communicate The Good and The Bad: You need to cultivate and sustain relationships at the school all year. It is important to communicate when things aren't working and when they succeed.