No matter what grade level you teach, educators need to be aware of food allergies in their schools and classrooms because currently
1 in 13 U.S. children have a food allergy. Food Allergies are not a joke. Food Allergies are a serious medical issue and can even be deadly.
Here are some top tips for teachers :
1. Use non-food incentives for prizes , gifts and awards. Kids of all ages love stickers, pencils, anything colorful. Avoid making food a reward system.
2. School pizza parties are fun but they can be very dangerous for kids with food allergies. Pizza is loaded with cheese which can be deadly to a child with a milk allergy, and the pizza crust often has gluten in it and made from wheat – No No’s for students with wheat allergies and Celiac disease.
3. Make sure you know the Top 8 allergies that 90% of those with food allergies are allergic to. In the U.S. these include Milk, Wheat, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish, Seafood, and Eggs. Ask parents to send in snacks free of the Top8 Allergens and always read labels before handing out goodies to students.
4. Always read labels. Product ingredients and manufacturing processes change so never assume a food item is safe.
5. Encourage kids to wash their hands before and after handling or consuming food-soap and water is best . No fancy hand sanitizers are needed .
6. Remind students never to share food. We like to teach that sharing is caring , but it’s not so caring if you share your food with a food allergic child .
7. Wash down all desks, tables and chairs with soap and water before and after each meal.
8. At the start of the school year make sure you know who in your classroom has a food allergy and who carries Epi. Make sure you know how to use the Epi device on the child in case he/she is unable to. In a food allergy emergency seconds count so teachers must know how to administer Epi.
9. Some craft items actually can contain food allergens. Be sure you know which ones do and modify materials as necessary. Kids with Food Allergies provides an extensive list. Click HERE for it.
10. Nip bullying in the bud. Many students with food allergies are often belittled and bullied by other kids. Put an end to this immediately. FARE offers strategies which you can find HERE
What other tips do you have? Share in our Comments section and check out our Back to School resources page for more ideas and tips.