The dreaded school cafeteria

If you have a child who suffers with food allergies, then you know how much dedication goes into cooking meals, how much deliberation goes into picking the right restaurants to dine-out. Above all, you are familiar with all the many creative ways to navigate the dreaded school cafeteria menu … that is, if you don’t already pack lunches.

Well, worry no more.

This October, federal health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines on how to handle student food allergies in schools. Finally, kids like me have a fighting chance to eat in the school cafeteria, to fit in and be more normal.

I remember how I was constantly “sick” growing up. No one could figure out why I couldn’t breathe properly, why I had the cold all the time, why I had migraines, severe cramps, chronic coughs and chest pain. Every week it was a new symptom as my body struggled to compensate. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized 90-percent of my health woes were food-related. Life grew easier as public awareness developed. I didn’t fear restaurants, company picnics, or having to stab myself in the thigh with an Epi-pen in public anymore. I had choices. Now students do, too.  

An estimated 88 percent of school-aged children have allergies and 6 percent are allergic to nuts, dairy and eggs. I think the numbers are higher because many go undiagnosed and cases are under-reported.  

Hopefully that will change as more schools volunteer to adopt the CDC’s recommendations, which include: not using foods identified as allergens in class projects, as prizes and in science experiments; training staff on the use of Epi-pens (for anaphylaxis emergencies); and designating allergen-safe zones. More importantly, your kids will no longer be excluded from trips and other school activities because of allergies.

Hence, now is the time to get your children tested and inform their schools so they can partner with you to create a meal-plan.

Do you think these guidelines will work? Further, do you think most school districts will adopt these measures? If you or your family suffer with allergies what has been your experience prior to this announcement? Do you think this move was long overdue?

I want to hear from you!

A journalist by trade, Corinne has written for both the military and civilian populations. She has a Master's in Writing and Bachelor's in English. She is also a military spouse and her family is currently stationed at Fort Hood.

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