As a parent, you know that back to school is a hectic time for all families, but especially for kids with food allergies who have to meet new teachers and set up new protocols. I personally grew up addressing this problem as I have both celiac disease and food allergies; and, today, I write a blog GF Life 24/7 that provides recipes and product reviews for individuals with celiac disease and/or food allergies. I have found two articles to share highlighting important resources when preparing to head back to school.
Allergic Living recently published an article about the Allergy Law Project, which is a group of qualified lawyers who have joined together to demystify issues regarding food allergy and the law. The three lawyers who began this program are Laurel Francoeur of Massachusetts, Mary Vargas of Maryland, and Homa Woodrum of Nevada. This new project is a collection of articles that explain in layman terms how certain food allergy cases turn out from 504 plans in the classroom to workplace discrimination. With all the intricacies of 504 plans and ADA, the organization does not provide advice, but instead makes the legal jargon more accessible to us.
Many children with food allergies don’t eat school lunches, especially without a strong 504 plan. Therefore, the second expert I’d like to introduce you to is Keeley McGuire, an advocate for the celiac and food allergy community who runs a blog dedicated to allergy friendly fun lunches. Her most popular post, “Lunch Made Easy: 20 Non-Sandwich School Lunch Ideas for Kids!” provides gluten free and allergy friendly ideas that do not require expensive substitute products, such as gluten free bread. She includes an overview of sandwich free alternatives: salads, muffins, and more, and then concludes her post with specific lunch combinations that her children have enjoyed.
With so many different considerations in place as you head back to school, here are a few thoughts to keep in mind.
3 Tips for Parents with Food Allergies
- Have a Written Plan. No matter how accommodating your school may be, it’s important to have a plan in writing should a problem ever arise. Additionally, this ensures that you know the precise protocol when it comes to wiping down tables, snacks in the classroom, etc. As mentioned above, you’ll have to speak with lawyers or your school to see if your child qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but establishing a 504 Plan is the best case scenario.
- Meal Prep. When there’s children involved, there’s no guarantee that you can avoid a mid morning catastrophe. To ensure the mornings go as smoothly as possible, plan out your meals for the week. You can even store 5 pre-made lunches in the fridge if you’re especially ambitious. All of Keeley McGuire’s lunch boxes are easy to prepare in advance, so be sure to check out her other articles as well!
- Be Open and Listen. When sending your child to school, you are entrusting your teacher with the livelihood of your child. You should be open with your concerns, but also listen to theirs. If a protocol you want to implement will disrupt the curriculum, be flexible and consider an alternative way to keep your child safe. Remember both you and your teacher want what’s best for your child, but you may have to be creative when coming up with solutions!
There are so many intricacies within the law that I certainly would never determine on my own that I’m personally excited to read the work of the Allergy Law Project; and I’m certain that with these resources under your belt, you’ll be off to a successful school year as well!
My name is Kaila, and here on GF Life 24/7, I publish restaurant reviews every Tuesday and recipes every Friday. Everything on my blog is designed for those with celiac disease and food allergies. I am currently completing a Social Media Marketing Course on Coursera, and wrote this Filter and Focus blog post for the course. Feel free to reach out or connect with me @gflife247. You may also find me on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.