By Heather Legg
As an involved parent and room mom, I have been working on organizing some of the many end of the year events at my children’s school. We have end of the year parties, a “book signing” party, teacher appreciation week and more. The thing is, many of these events are accompanied by food. And the food is usually contributed by parents, with and without allergy knowledge.
I have two children in elementary school, one with an allergy with other kids with allergies in her class, the other doesn’t have allergies but another child in her class does. So what is the best way to handle all of this food? Fortunately, everyone should be aware of all of the allergies as the parents have let the class know of them at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, a lot of them forget or don’t grasp what allergies really mean.
Usually the room moms do a pretty good job of reminding parents of what is OK to bring in and what isn’t when we ask for contributions. Giving specifics is a good idea, too, like certain brands or certain items that are allergy safe.
The downside is that sometimes it is difficult to find foods that suit everyone. If you have a variety of allergies in the class, it may be hard to find that will please everyone. This is why a lot of schools have moved away from the food celebrations and lean more towards the event celebration, like pajama day or camping day. But it’s tough to get away form it altogether.
Another occurrence I have discovered is that the more allergies in a class, the less willing the other parents are willing to help out. Is it that they are afraid they will bring in something that isn’t safe? Is it that they are tired of hearing all about allergies and allergy safe food, restrictions, etc? Now, this isn’t always the case, but I have seen it. This would be a great time for education and awareness to step in.
If you think food will be a problem, send in something for your child, or better yet, the whole class. You don’t have to do all of the food, but you can provide one allergy safe snack for everyone on a special occasion. Remember, too, kids have been eating around our children all year long, and hopefully, it’s been done without incident.
Another option is move the party. The weather is so nice this time of year (except for pollen, but that’s another story!!) that perhaps you can ask your teacher to move the party outdoors or to another part of the building if you are afraid of contamination or traces of allergens. You can even help with clean up to make sure everything is wiped sufficiently and disposed of properly.
There are lots of ways to let your child be involved while maintaining avoidance and safety. If you enlist the help of your fellow classmates and parents, it may be a great opportunity to spread the awareness and education that will be so beneficial to all of us!