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School Lunch

My son has been living with a peanut allergy since he was 15 months old. He is now in second grade and attending public school. We've had issues in the past with them isolating him because he was the only one at the peanut free table. He is anaphylactic to peanuts so he has a healthy fear of eating near kids with peanut butter. We moved schools at the beginning of the year and I feel like I'm fighting again to get the school to include him in the social experience at lunch.

There are no other peanut allergies in his class and only his class eats in the lunch room at one time. They allow him to ask a friend to eat with him but that requires that he is comfortable to ask someone every day he is at school. He's still in the process of making friends due to the move. Social situations are already a challenge for him as he's shy. We've tried putting him within his class at a spot that's cleaned off but the staff put him at the girls table and he was given some ribbing by his peers so he opted to go back to the peanut free table.

Today I went in to have lunch with him and he was in the process of asking a friend to eat with him. The friend said no and my son had to work to hold back the tears. Everyone seems to be passing the buck and not taking the initiative to ensure he's being integrated. Any insight as to how I can convince the school that this process is causing issues with him acclimating socially?

I am going to throw out the idea that they give a reward/good behavior ticket to kids if they eat with him. I'd rather not force kids to sit with him as I think that will cause resentment. I need help with ideas. The look on his face when he was rejected was heartbreaking.

By mom1995 on Tue, 03-10-15, 22:22

That is so WONDERFUL to read! ! ! Thank you for sharing as someone else in need will read and you have help'd them too ! ! !
By middle school our daughter did have a select group of friends that were willing to stab her with her epipen at any moment. Was a kind of joke.... if you wanted to hang with her we had to know you would do it if needed. Mostly they were extra eyes and ears and kept people with nuts away. She played school sports, she was in the band and she did many things with her friends as they were there to support her. Those young ladies are all now out in the world and just as aware as if they had the allergy. Great to educate where ever you can. By high school there was no stoping our daughter at being her own voice and on one occassion feeling strong enough to get her phone out at school and filming an event that was a clear violation of her 504. She was very strong in demanding the Principal and not anyone else to speak with. By the time I recieved the call she had handled it all. That's when you KNOW you did right. Each school has its own ups and downs and challenges. Being persistant and a clear voice is the key to success. Sounds like you and your son on well on your way !! ! !

By [email protected] on Tue, 03-10-15, 19:18

I went into school today and did a presentation that was available at FARE on the PAL program. It's basically how friends can be good PALs to friends that have allergies. I also read "Nutley, the nut free squirrel". I then brought out the black light, light box and florescent gel that we used to show how to wash hands to keep allergens out of the classroom. The last part I did because I know how curious 2nd graders are and how engaged they would be with a hands on activity involving goo. The kids were incredible and clamoring to sign up to sit at the peanut free table. He had 5 friends sitting with him today and they were all talking about how they want to continue to sit there. It was a great success and I plan on continuing the activity at the beginning of each year in elementary school. Not sure what I'll do once we move up to middle school but hopefully by then, he will have developed the group of friends that will be comfortable to be around him in a safe way. I was incredible encouraged by today. Oh and I laughed out loud at one child who shared with me that whenever her grandfather eats candy, he has less lives to live. Man the things that kids say. Priceless. Thanks of everyone for your thoughts and support. It has helped me navigate this hurdle immensely.

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By peanutfreenana on Mon, 03-09-15, 02:53

We have chosen to ask the school to surround our little one with school lunch kids. Conferencing with the cafeteria manager, we discovered that school lunches cannot contain peanuts or tree nuts. They do not have to go down to the "may contain" level but our first grader knows not to share lunch, etc. Another parent with a nut allergic child wanted to do this too so we agreed to avoid all nuts in my granddaughters lunch so they could sit together amongst friends. We live in the tropics where meat could spoil so most home lunch kids bring peanut butter. She has been in school for two years and no incidents have occurred.

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By mom65 on Mon, 03-09-15, 00:38

My son is highly allergic to peanuts/ tree nuts. He goes to a Catholic School with about 400 kids. The school lunches that are sold are nut free. What if you forget your lunch? The school serves turkey sandwiches (not PBJ). He sits at a nut free table but always has friends to sit with. They make the class have just enough seats so no one sits alone. Training started in Kindergarten with parents and children. He is almost 12. New children have been added to the class and education has continued. We have a committee made up of parents and nurse and we make recommendations on how we want things to be handled and they usually complie with our request.

The school can't control what people bring for lunch but they can control what they serve. The less nuts in the cafeteria the better.

Good luck!

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By cathlina on Sun, 03-08-15, 22:35

As a peanut allergy adult I intentionally isolate myself at lunch at work. It is safer for me. No risk of cross contamination for me. Try to put a positive spin on this if you can. Maybe the other kids are trying to keep your child safe. Maybe a teacher or counselor school could eat lunch with him.

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By hagstro4 on Sun, 03-08-15, 17:02

My son has been airborne to peanuts since the first grade. He is now in fifth grade . He sits at a separate table in the lunchroom away from anyone with nuts. They sit near the walls. He picks two friends to eat with him every day. They are the same friends for the entire year. If by chance someones parent forgets n sends nuts then they sit with the general population. This has worked out well. He is not gage only nut allergic child but gage only airborne child. All nut allergy kids sit at the same tables n are allowed to pick their two friends. Hope this helps

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By ivegot4 on Sun, 03-08-15, 16:48

My oldest pa kid is 14 now. Our approach with him is to cultivate friendships with kids who don't mind making the effort to help him stay safe. We spend a lot of time talking to our kids about how it is their responsibility to keep themselves safe. The world is full of people who won't "get it." Our children need to learn to advocate for themselves. To speak up for what they need and what makes them safe.
This is not an easy road, but it does make for some pretty strong kids. Have your child be bold in asking his friends to make an effort to include him. Help him talk to the parents of his friends so they will be on board as well.
We have found that most kids and parents are happy to make adjustments when there is a personal connection rather than just a rule or system set up by the administration.
The school is just the first of a lifetime of situations where they have to figure out how to stay safe. Give them tools to educate rather than trying to protect their feelings. They will be left out sometimes, their friends will forget, and there will be bullies. Your child can't control those things, but he can be ready to handle them when they happen. You can give him the power to be his own advocate. This isn't just about what happens in second grade or third grade, it's about what happens at summer camp, in the break room at his first job, and at his in-laws' house at Thanksgiving 20 years from now. Give him a voice to stand up for himself for the rest of his life.
Stepping off the soapbox now. ????

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By jap on Sun, 03-08-15, 16:17

Easy
When my daughter was in grades 1-4 she went to the secretary office and they had lunch together, special time and she was not isolated

Grade 4 on wards the school cafeteria went peanut free, not the school so kids could bring in peanut butter thus maintaining their rights.

If any one of her friends took a school lunch tray they could sit with her at the peanut free table.

As far as items saying may contain or made on same equipment they are safe to be around just not to eat for the PA child, it is the neat raw sticky peanut butter that your child should not be around

Good luck

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By mom1995 on Thu, 03-05-15, 03:10

First of all I am so VERY sorry for your son's experience.
Second 'exclusion' is the very opposite of inclusion and absolutley a violation of his civil rights. If his allergy effects his ability to breathe which IS a 'vital life function' then he protected by section 504 of the Americans with Disability Act.

It sounds like maybe his school has no idea how to accomidate his allergy. So you may need to find and print some sample plans and help to educate his school. If you are in the US then your school dist should have a 504 Cordinator. That person is sent for special training to protect the school. Get a meeting with that person if you can not get threw to the teacher or the principal.

Lastly, I would not use the bribe option. You son needs people who want to be around him because they got to know him and enjoy his company. He should be allowed to eat with the other students and have that social time just like everyoe else. I never allowed any one to make our daughter be isolated. At this age you have stand up and be his voice. Start at home asking him what he wants to make life better then with him by your side tell the adults that are responsible for his safety what that is. Continue to stand your ground until those accomidations are met. You will be teaching you son how to speak up and showing him his value.

As our daughter is grown now and off to college I know she has the ability and confidence to tell anyone what she needs to be safe. She also understands her rights and how to effectivley educate anyone that does not.

Hope this helps. Good luck and keep asking here. Many great folks with many great views and advice. You will know which is right for you.

By [email protected] on Thu, 03-05-15, 14:33

Thanks for the thoughts on the coordinator. I hadn't thought about that route and it's a great idea.

He and I are going to put together a presentation that talks about his allergy and present it to the class. We're going to do that each year as the school year begins so that hopefully, the kids are educated and know what it means to sit at that table. We're going to include a hand washing exercise as I see that many of the kids are eating their peanut butter products and not even washing their hands after lunch. If nothing else, maybe we'll get some better hand washers out of it and less germs being shared! lol

I also asked them to remove the restriction that he can only invite one friend. It was a light bulb when I asked in our meeting why we weren't offering him the option of filing up the table if he wants to create a larger group that sits with him.

Congrats on your daughters making it to college with such great ability to advocate for herself. My son does a fantastic job when it comes to the food aspect. I just need to work with him on the social part so that he knows he can fight for that too.

Thanks again for taking to time to write.

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