Food allergy is a growing public health issue that impacts almost every school across the United States, so you can assume it impacts your faith community. Nearly 6 million children in the U.S. – which equates to 1 in 13, or roughly 2 in every classroom – have a food allergy.
Transferring from the safe confines of one’s home to a daycare, school, or church school setting can be a difficult and bewildering experience for the food-allergic student and his or her family. Cooked or baked products served at birthday or holiday celebrations can trigger many reactions. What was once a typical snack offering in the classroom now needs scrutiny. Other sources of accidental exposure included arts, crafts, and science projects. Nuts, wheat, dairy, seafood, and berries are common food allergens. Registration forms and permission slips should always include a place to list such allergies, as well as any other medical information that is essential for caretakers to know in case of emergency.
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Your church should develop policies to manage food allergies appropriately, including information on handling medical emergencies, and taking preventative measures to avoid a child’s exposure to a known food allergen. Families and school staff and volunteers should work together to formulate reasonable and practical plans that will keep students with food allergies safe.