Safeguarding School for Kids with Food Allergies

Children eating snacks in elementary school classroom
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School is almost out, but don’t let the summer slip by without you planning ahead. For kids with food allergies, the summer is a great time to get things in order for the next school year.  By spending time with your child to discuss how this year went, you can be sure that the next school year goes even better.  Every kid deserves to feel as though they are safe in their classroom environment, but more than that, they deserve to participate in everyday school life, be it class activities, sports or field trips.


Many parents find out after the school year ends that their child felt left out at various school events due to their food allergies. Many kids report that they often felt singled out, missed class-wide events or even felt stressed over their food allergies.  The good news is that once parents and kids open up lines of communication about handling food allergies at school, resolutions to these issues can be found. And in fact, the kids then report feeling like a “regular” kid at school once again.

Take the time to discuss the ways in which you can make school a happier and safer place for your kids with food allergies:

Emergency Food Allergy Plan 

Many kids with food allergies may not always voice their concerns over how to handle an allergic reaction while at school. Sitting down with your child to discuss a plan of action that is concise and easy to understand can help to calm their fears about heading off to school.


This plan should include helping your child to identify symptoms of an allergic reaction, what steps they should take to convey this to the teacher, enlisting the help of class mates and where to keep any emergency supplies.  Running through this plan of action at home will help to set your child’s mind at ease.


Take this plan to the school and meet with the teachers and school nurse, so that your child feels comfortable that the staff is on board with the emergency plan.  Be sure this includes a signed document from your physician that allows for the administration of medication if needed, especially in the case of an anaphylactic response.  

Student Accommodations

In the United States, any student that has a medical condition is entitled to an Individual Health Care Plan, known as an IHCP.  Many students with food allergies have individualized 504 Plans, which set up certain parameters to be certain that students with “disabilities” have the same opportunities and access to an education.  

Students with food allergies should have a 504 Plan set in place so that there is clarity with regard to what their needs are within the classroom setting, as well as on field trips.  This plan may include accommodations such as staff education on food allergies, the allowance of a snack to be eaten during a class, placement of an emergency care plan, permission for outside snacks on a bus trip, and a multitude of other facets to be sure your child is safe while at school.

  Often the plan will include expectations of the staff, parents and students so that each is aware of their responsibilities in meeting the students needs while in the school. Each 504 Plan is completely individualized to meet the needs of your child and is reviewed and revised yearly.  

Skip the Sweets, Not the Student

Quite often, celebrations at school involve some sort of special snack or treat. It might be for a classmate's birthday, a holiday party or perhaps a special treat for a well-behaved class.  Even if snack time only lasts for a few minutes, for the student with the food allergy, the feeling of being left out can last a whole lot longer.  

Some parents of kids with food allergies have provided a special snack to be kept in the classroom to be used for their child in the event that a non-suitable treat is brought in. However, many kids report that having something different then the other kids often brings more unwanted attention. So while this seems like the perfect solution, it is not always the preferred option. 

It is important to speak with your school or teachers, to make suggestions about other ways to celebrate that will better meet the needs of all students.  Perhaps by meeting with other parents or staff members a list of other celebratory activities can be created.  Handing out stickers, making crafts, providing extra playground time or a no-homework pass are some of the options to replace the idea of giving out food.  

Another option might be to set up guidelines for acceptable foods that will include those students with food allergies. This list might vary from class to class, due to the types of allergies, however, this might provide for a better system that does not exclude a student from a celebration. Limiting outside snacks to ices or fruits often covers many of the common food allergens, but again this should take into account individuals within each classroom.  


What better way to help your child advocate for themselves than to help them to educate the staff, their peers and the community on understanding food allergies. Discuss ways in which you can work together to be certain that those around you understand living with food allergies.  There are many resources that will send posters and education materials directly to the school so that everyone can be better informed. 

Perhaps you and your child can start a support group or club at the school for others with food allergies or those with siblings with food allergies.  What a great way to help your child to learn to live with their food allergies than to partner with other kids in a similar situation. Together they can share their feelings, create fundraisers or events for allergen related causes, and make a difference in keeping kids safe in school. 

Walking into school knowing that you have put these actions in place, will most certainly lead to a happier, more successful and safer year ahead for the student with food allergies. 

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