The Schuylerville Central School District is planning several activities to educate its students about food allergies during the first week in November as part of the school’s Allergy Awareness Week.
In Schuylerville, there are nearly 40 students and staff who have severe allergies to foods ranging from peanuts, eggs and tree nuts to eggplant, strawberries and shellfish. Each student with a physician-documented allergy has a health care plan that is easily accessible through the district’s student database; hard copies of the plans also are available to all staff who regularly interact with the affected students.
“The most important thing for parents and community members to know about food allergies in the school setting is that preventing exposure is key to keeping our food allergy students safe,” said Michele Talbot, Schuylerville Elementary School nurse. “Parents and guardians should always check with teachers before bringing any food into the classrooms or consider bringing in non-food items, such as crafts or favors, for special occasions rather than food.”
Colleen Earley, a parent of a child with food allergies, believes it is also important for students to understand what a food allergy is and how it affects their classmates.
“All of my daughter’s teachers have been fabulous when addressing her food allergies,” Early said. “But we need help from everyone.”
For the past five years, Earley has organized many grade-appropriate activities in the elementary school and this year she plans to kick off Allergy Awareness Week with “Funny Feet Day” on Nov. 3. The event encourages students to wear funny socks or shoes and donate one dollar to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education). Other highlights of Allergy Awareness Week include:
- During library time, kindergartners and first-graders will hear food allergy-related stories, such as a book about Alex the Elephant who is allergic to peanuts. Discussions about food allergies will follow, along with a coloring contest.
- Second-graders will learn about the importance of proper hand-washing and developing an awareness of others who may have food allergies. These students also will learn about reading food labels.
- Students in grades 3-4 will view the Nick News video “Allergic to My World” during computer classes and create posters about food allergies.
Schuylerville Middle School will also take part in Allergy Awareness Week. Students will be encouraged to participate in “Flip-Flop Day” to support FARE; a fact about allergies will be read during morning announcements each day; and sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students will learn about food allergies and how to avoid cross-contact during their health, home and careers or science classes.
For most parents, the most worrisome aspect of having a child with food allergies is the environment. “There are lots of different challenges in a school setting; I worry about my daughter being safe––and it’s even more nerve-wracking as she gets older and gains more independence,” Earley said. “Schuylerville is the only district in the area that has so many allergy awareness activities. However, I realize there are limits to what can be fit into the regular school day among all the mandated requirements. So I’m encouraging people to contact me if they have questions or would like more information about food allergies.”
Earley can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information about food allergies is available online:
- Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE): http://www.foodallergy.org
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration – Food Allergies/What You Need to Know: http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodallergens/ucm079311.htm
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology information on food allergies: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/food-allergies.aspx