It seems that in recent months, nothing incites parents more than discussions about food in the classroom. Parents of food-allergic children are trying to keep their children safe by asking for certain foods (such as peanuts or peanut butter) to be prohibited from the classroom, or even to ban food from the classroom completely, and other parents are fighting to keep the status quo.
With the latest studies reporting that as many as 8% of our children have food allergies, this is no longer a problem that can be addressed as an exception. Chances are that at least one child in every classroom has food allergies. Even if it’s not your child, as parents we all have a responsibility to keep our children safe.
While the details of every food allergy – the specific foods a child is allergic to and the severity of the reaction – there are some steps every parent should take before sending food to school to be shared with a class. The most important is to ask – find out if other children in your child’s class have food allergies and talk to the parents of those children to collaborate on possible solutions. While every situation is different, here are some ideas for snack solutions that avoid some of the top food allergens:
- Instead of peanut butter, try SunButter or other butters made from sunflower seeds. They taste (and look) nearly the same as classic peanut butter.
- While most chocolate bars contain milk, Enjoy Life Foods makes a bar they call Boom-Choco-Boom, that is dairy-free, nut-free, and made in a dedicated facility free of the top eight food allergens.
- Instead of cupcakes – for those that need to avoid wheat, dairy, and/or eggs – try an allergen-free version of crisped rice cakes. Use gluten-free crisped rice cereal from Erewhon, Earth Balance natural shortening, and gluten-free/dairy-free marshmallows.
- Both Enjoy Life Foods and Home Free Treats offer off-the-shelf cookies that are suitable for most with food allergies.
These are just a few examples of treats that might be acceptable in the classroom with a food-allergic child. What’s your favorite allergen-free treat to share?