THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Office of P-20 Education Policy
Each school year, many school food authorities (SFAs) seek guidance to assist them with developing policies and plans that address keeping students with food allergies safe in the school environment.
Under pressure from parents of children with peanut allergies, some schools consider banning peanut butter and all products containing peanuts. Such an effort would require a long-term commitment and cooperation by the entire school community, including students, parents, teachers, school personnel, substitute personnel, and the school cafeteria. In addition, a daily monitoring system would need to be implemented to assure that the offending food never enters the school building, a nearly impossible task.
These schools would also need to consider the impact the ban may have on the population of children who rely on peanut butter as one of their major sources of daily calories and nutrients. Many parents prefer to prepare and send peanut butter sandwiches to school for their child's lunch, as it is an economical source of protein and can be held safely at room temperature for an extended period of time.
In most instances, banning products that contain peanuts is not a practical or effective approach for dealing with this very serious problem. The Child Nutrition Program Administration Office has researched the issue and offers the following suggestions to help schools manage food allergies in the cafeteria and the classroom. We encourage SFAs to develop and implement guidelines and educational programs to prevent a child's potential exposure to peanut products. Some suggestions for developing guidelines and training would include:
- Establish a food allergy support team that includes the child, parents, principal, school nurse, teachers, food service director, and school personnel to develop an emergency plan to implement if an allergic reaction occurs in school.
- Train all school personnel about food allergies and the importance of acting immediately if a child appears to be exhibiting signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction.
- Conduct practice drills periodically to determine if the emergency plan is effective. Involve all necessary personnel.
- Avoid cross-contamination, i.e., use separate knives for peanut butter and jelly.
- Review food labels for all products purchased and served by the cafeteria. Manufacturers continuously refine and improve food products. Food product labels must be read each time they are purchased, as peanuts can be added in a variety of forms and are frequently added to increase the protein content of foods.
- Establish "peanut free" zones, e.g., table in the cafeteria, without isolating the child with food allergies.
- Discourage food trading.
- Discourage sharing snacks and goodies in the classroom that are from outside sources.
The Child Nutrition Program Administration Team has copies of "The School Food Allergy Program," a comprehensive program for managing food allergies at school, available for loan to SFAs. Several years ago, approximately 10,000 food allergy posters produced by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) were distributed to all SFAs. The poster is written in English and Spanish and assists school personnel in identifying common food allergens and recognizing the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, and emphasizes the importance of immediate intervention. Some additional posters are still available by contacting Dechelle Johnson at email@example.com
If you have any questions, or if you would like to borrow resource materials, please contact Paula Tyner-Doyle at (518) 432-5068 or Sandra Sheedy at (518) 473-1525.