Working With School Nutrition Services To Meet The Needs Of Children With Allergies

For families who struggle to make ends meet, school lunches can be both a source of relief and a source of anxiety. This is especially true if your child struggles with food allergies. Trusting the school nutrition service provider to not only meet the needs of your child's allergen-free diet but to also provide him or her with a well-balanced meal can be frightening, to say the least. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take as a parent in order to advocate for your child's safety as well as his or her nourishment.

Be Proactive

Rather than waiting on your child's teacher to get a health plan set up with the school nurse, which may take a few days, take the time to speak directly to the cafeteria manager. It is likely that he or she will need a note or a prescription from your child's doctor, stating any food restrictions and modifications that your child needs. The cafeteria staff has to provide an account to the state about any variations that they make to the daily menu for specific students. Your child should have a health plan set up for the classroom (so, don't skip the health plan), but the cafeteria is often run by a food service management company and will need separate documentation. 

Advocate for Safety

In 2013, the CDC developed a set of guidelines informing schools how to avoid food allergy related incidents and what to do in the event of a food allergy emergency. These guidelines are considered voluntary, but they do include some good advice, such as having a separate seating area in the cafeteria for allergen-free meals, including pictures of students with allergies so that all food service staff is aware of the students that need certain accommodations, and having separate preparation and storage areas for allergen-free foods. Encourage your child's school cafeteria staff to follow these protocols in order to make sure that your child, and others with food allergies, is safe. 

Encourage Certification Training

Another way that you can help your school's nutrition service providers to better serve your child is to encourage the cafeteria staff to become certified through a food allergen training program. There are several different programs available, including ones that are specific to particular allergens such as gluten, and ones that take a broader approach to all food allergies. If your school's cafeteria staff is not currently trained through one of these programs, talk to your local school district about providing funding for the staff to receive this training.

As a parent, there is a lot that you can do in order to make sure that your child is getting the safe and nutritious meals he or she needs at school. Start by making sure that you are talking to the right people. Then work to make sure that everyone is on the same page. You can make a difference for your child and others with food allergies as well. For more information, contact a company like New Horizon Foods.