Sunday, 7 September 2008

weighing in on the school nut issue

My daughter recently attended a summer camp that was 'nut free', and the parents had to provide packed lunches. The camp did not provide any refrigeration for these lunches, and the as it was a summer camp, the weather was quite warm. I adhered to the no nut policy, and when I made homemade food, I did as requested and placed a note inside her lunch with a signed "this has no nuts in it"and a listing of the ingredients.

She wanted to make cookies one day and bring them to all of her friends (she had gone to nursery with them and they were all together; I know all their parents very well); so I said, OK, and we made them so that she could take them to camp with her and give them to her friends.

The camp, it seems, also has a very firm, NO SHARING, rule.

OK, now I was upset. I understood the no nut policy, even though I was in disagreement with it. However, I have to ask, why all the precaution if the kids can't SHARE anyway?

I don't have a problem with no nut policies when the school or camp is taking the risk of this by either providing the lunches for the children, or making sure that the children do not share their lunches, or that they do not bring nuts, but when it's the latter two together, isn't that overkill?

Am I to assume that these places are disinfecting or changing all tablecloths (if used) after each lunch period? What if a child accidentally brings something in and it gets on the table, how can I know that they actually cleaned it off before an allergic kid sat down and rubbed his hand in it? What if a kid had nuts for breakfast, didn't brush his/her teeth and then kissed another kid. Or if it was on their hands, didn't wash their hands and then simply shook hands with another? Is this camp or school making sure that the kids brush their teeth or wash their hands when they enter the building? Or is the next step to somehow force and monitor parents to make sure their children are doing these things (yes, I know they should anyway, but we've all had those mornings).

I have done all this research on the Internet, just to see if my feelings are justified. I have read all about these schools that are strictly NO NUTS for outside food coming in, but then serve PB & J sandwiches to the kids in the lunch line. What's the deal with that?

I do sincerely understand that for the 1% of kids that have a severe nut allergy, any exposure to nuts can be fatal. I totally sympathise with their parents and know that if it was my kid, I would be doing everything in my power to make sure that my kid was safe. However, I have a few issues with this no nut policy in that (1) according to allergists (I have a lot of allergies BTW - including peanuts) complete abstinence from the allergen causes just as many problems, to include lax attitudes because the allergic person is to used to everyone else looking out for them, (2) lack of exposure to things creates allergies in the first place!

It is unfair for a random parent with an allergic kid to expect that the other 99% of parents in a school will spend hours scouring the supermarket labels for foods that may contain nuts, or would completely disinfect their homes prior to making a school lunch that is, in reality, only intended for their child to consume. I'm sorry, but we eat nuts in this house, and we will continue to do so.

Now, if we had friends, or my children make friends that are nut sensitive, we will take every precaution, when the occasion arises to make sure that those children are safe in my house, but I'm not talking about the one off occasion when a play date may occur. The parents of nut allergic (or any allergic) kid are responsible for letting everyone else know that their child is allergic to something. This includes play dates and, to be honest, the playground, where my children often offer to share their snacks with random kids they are playing with.

I am lucky that my child is attending a school where they provide lunch. This is because they have a no nut policy and they want to ensure that the children eat healthy food. Rather than give strict rules to the parents, the school has deemed it their responsibility to enforce these rules.