A new CDC report shows that food allergy among children in the United States is seriously on the rise over the past decade, there has been an 18 percent increase in such diagnoses. With 4 out of every 100 children under the age of 18 suffering from a food allergy, many schools are working hard to develop comprehensive policies and management plans to deal with this potentially life-threatening condition. However, while striving to find a balance between safety and normalcy in the school environment, educational leaders and policy-makers are wrestling with the social, emotional, and practical aspects of food allergy, its associated stigma and isolation, and the newer phenomenon of “food bullies” kids who threaten children who are food allergic by exposing them to their respective allergens.
Schools are also struggling to answer the difficult questions that come with this: Do we ban peanuts from our cafeterias? Are parents allowed to send in special “homemade” treats for the birthdays? Can we staff every school building with a student at risk for anaphylaxis with a fulltime school nurse? Should we guarantee appropriate substitutions or modifications for meals served to students with food allergies? Currently, there are no Federal guidelines concerning the management of life-threatening food allergies in the school setting to provide the answers but that could soon change!
As Congress considers legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop voluntary guidelines related to food allergy and anaphylaxis management in schools, NSBA is also getting involved with this important issue. Building upon our recent publication, Eating Safely at School: What Education Leaders Need to Know and Do to Prevent and Respond to Food-Related Illness in School, NSBA has partnered with the CDC, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and the Rhode Island Department of Education to develop credible food allergy policy guidance for policy-makers, educational leaders, and parents.
So stay tuned!