If you’re a parent of school-aged kids, you know that the month of August brings a rush of chaos along with its humid, sticky, heat. You’re bombarded with the overwhelming task of buying a new wardrobe, a backpack, a lunchbox, and other necessary supplies for each child, while still trying to achieve the perfect combination of style and savings. As if this weren’t time-consuming enough, you’re expected to attend parent orientation, meet the teacher, and fill out what seems to be an endless pile of forms. The month of August is exhausting.
If you’re an allergy parent, the start of a new school year means all of this and much, much more. A new school year means an entirely new set of classmates, parents, and staff to educate on the ins and outs of keeping your child safe. This can be a daunting task for those parents who are dealing with it for the first time, but trust me, it will become second nature. If you do it right, it will become second nature for your classmates and their parents too.
Some of you reading this will be a staff member or a parent of a non-allergy child and will have to deal with food allergies in your classroom this year. My advice is simple when it comes to safety: You can never be too cautious.
When preparing, packing, or serving snacks and lunches, check the ingredient labels. Check them again. Then do it again. One more time? Yes! You can never check the ingredients too many times. Even though this is my everyday life, I always feel more comfortable when I have another set of eyes check them too. If I buy a new product from the grocery store, I always have my husband check the label before it is served to Gene (or Farrah).
Most preschools have a procedure of washing hands before and after meals. If you’re not sure if a child washed his hands or not, have him wash his hands again just in case. Twice is better than not at all. The purpose of washing hands before meals is obviously for cleanliness. The purpose of washing hands after meals could simply be so they don’t get their stickies and crumbs on classroom toys and manipulatives; however, for an allergy-child, it is critical for his safety.
Students with food allergies can have allergic reactions through different ways of exposure. Exposure can be through digestion (actually eating the allergen), skin contact (the allergen touching their skin), or airborne (smelling/inhaling the allergen). Skin exposure can also be second-hand. For example, if a child does not wash his hands after eating, let’s say a PB&J sandwich, then both wheat and peanut allergens are still on his hands. This poses a potential risk to any student allergic to wheat or peanuts if he touches something after the other student has touched it.
Below are some snack and lunch ideas if your classroom is allergy-friendly. These are just a few of our go-to items, but definitely not all of them. Stay up to date on our favorites by looking in the “Products We Love” section of the website. Please keep in mind that changing flavors of certain items can change the ingredients. For example, Sea Salt Veggie Straws are Top 8 Allergy-Friendly, but Zesty Ranch Veggie Straws contain dairy.
AllerGene-Friendly (NO N.E.W.) Snack & Lunch Ideas:
- Aged White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty
- Snyder’s Gluten Free Pretzel Sticks
- Greek Yogurt (no granola/add ins)
- Turkey & Cheese Roll Ups
- Cheese Sticks
- Golden Platter Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets
- SunButter & Jelly Sandwich on Schar Artisan Baker White GF Bread
Top 8 Allergy-Friendly Snack & Lunch Ideas:
- Sea Salt Veggie Straws
- Skinny Pop Original Flavor Popcorn
- Any Fruit
- Any Vegetable (no Ranch Dip)
- Plain Rice Cakes (top with honey, SunButter, etc. for flavor)
- Bunless Hot Dogs
For all of my allergy parents, it is YOUR JOB to educate your people and to educate them BEFORE the first day of school. Non-allergy parents are usually more than eager to accommodate for your child. Make it easy on them by providing a list of approved snacks and meal ideas that are specific to your child. Print them out and have them ready at both Parent Orientation and Meet the Teacher. It’s also a good idea to ask the teacher to email them out to all of the parents since not everyone will make it to the kick-off events.
Whether you’re an allergy parent or not, the start of the school year is a season filled with fresh starts, excitement of things to come, and anxieties over the unknown. Help make the transition smooth by setting your child up for success. Do your shopping, laundry, and paperwork beforehand so they’re prepared. Send them off with hugs, kisses, and napkin notes so they know they’re loved. Most importantly, pray, so they’re always looked after, even when you can’t be there.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”