Food Allergies: More Prevalent Than People Think
October 2, 2020
For children with food allergies, having to buy lunch from school is a difficult task. For those without allergies, lunch food is simple. A sandwich, a burger, maybe a slice of pizza. But for a child with a gluten allergy, pizza dough or sandwich bread could trigger an allergic reaction. For a child with an allergy to dairy, the cheese on all of those items could also trigger a reaction.
According to the CDC, “food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern that affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States.”
Food allergies happen when the human body has an immune response to certain foods as if they were harmful, and the body seeks to reject it . Allergic reactions can range from minor reactions, such as rashes or hives, or more severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis or the inability to breathe.
Since there is no cure for food allergies, the only way to prevent a reaction is to strictly avoid such foods. But because it is not always easy or possible to avoid certain foods, staff in schools and early care and education programs often struggle with developing plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to food allergy emergencies.
The CDC has strict rules for how to address an allergic emergency, but these guidelines fail to address what foods schools should be providing to children with allergies. The US Department of Agriculture also has guidelines for the school lunch program, but their guidelines don’t mention how to manage allergies.
Academy of the Holy Names school lunches are made by a company called SAGE, and while SAGE offers a plethora of food options, not many foods are catered to the needs of students with allergies. With the exception of peanuts, nearly every SAGE item contains some sort of potential allergen.
Sophomore Alaina Salathe said, “My food allergies include, soy, dairy, gluten, chocolate, tomatoes, cauliflower, and a lot of other things. When I go to SAGE, a majority of the foods they offer include soy or dairy products, so it’s difficult to find something to eat at school.”
However, SAGE Lunch Systems do allow for students to filter the online menu based on their allergies, which does make it easier to see what foods contain allergens, such as gluten, wheat, soy, or dairy products.
Allergy-certified SAGE manager Ms. Bell said, “Allergies are very important at SAGE. We are nut-free, and we maintain the other allergens by having tabs showing what potential allergens a food item contains. When you look at the menu, you can see what allergens are there, but you will never see nuts on our menu.”
But allergies don’t end with school lunch. When these children go out to social events, such as parties or sleepovers, or even out to a restaurant, they constantly have to make sure that the food they’re eating is safe. At most restaurants, the waiter asks if anyone has a food allergy. If the answer is yes, the waiter has to make sure that the food ordered does not contain the allergen.
Freshman Amanda Stephens said, “I’m allergic to blueberries. I went to a friend’s birthday party once, and her cake had a lot of fruit in it. Before I ate it, I had to ask to make sure there weren’t any blueberries, and there were, so I was disappointed when I didn’t get to eat the cake. ”
For the majority of the population, worrying about allergies doesn’t seem to be a problem. But it’s important to make everyone aware about the dangers associated with allergies, and to always take caution when serving food.