Have You Ever Checked the Lunch/Snacks in Your Child Peanut Free Classroom?

Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2002 - 1:58am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

pI know that a lot of people would have checked the lunches/snacks of the other students in their PA child's peanut free classroom. I was wondering what your experience was and how you dealt with it./p
pAnd, of course, here's why I'm asking. To-day was the FIRST day in four years of Jesse in school (this is his fourth year) that I have ever checked the lunches/snacks of his classmates and I came away stupified./p
pIn JK and SK Jesse had the same teacher and I trusted her implicitly. She didn't allow anything into the classroom that she didn't feel okay about./p
pLast year, when he first started, the teacher was having the Grade One students actually read the labels of the foods themselves, thereby empowering them as well as teaching them reading skills. This was for the first two months./p
pThen we moved. Jesse had an educational aide in the classroom who checked everything./p
pI have always been comfortable with this. I have always gone into the school when it's special occasion time and checked the various treats that were brought in and okayed or not okayed them and I think, for the most part, all of the things were safe./p
pWell, to-day. What a chore first of all to go through 27 lunch boxes and you kinda feel like you're invading the child's privacy. I was glad that I didn't know each child so I couldn't put a name to the lunchbox./p
pHowever. What do you do about things that aren't pre-packaged? I don't send in pre-packaged things with my kids normally. When I send in Triscuits or Ritz, they're in a lunch bag. So, to-day, I came across a variety of different crackers that I couldn't tell what the heck they were and if they were, in fact, safe./p
pTo top it off, when I walked into the room, there was garbage from yesterday there and on top was a Lunchable complete with a butterfinger chocolate bar. I told the teacher straight away that that definitely wasn't safe and showed her the labeling. I also told her why Lunchables (whether Schneiders of Kraft) are difficult in that you have to read the ingredients for each and every item./p
pSo, there were the mystery crackers. Then there were Vachon Joe Louis little treats. They didn't have ingredients listed because they come out of a box. I'm fairly certain that these are unsafe as we've never eaten them here./p
pThere was one Lunchable (forget which one, my soul they are popular) that was unsafe and there were also the pre-packaged Ritz crackers with cheese that were unsafe. These were items with ingredient lists on them./p
pBut what about all of the little things that I found with no ingredient lists, strange things that I have never bought? How do I know? And what do you do about that particular food item in a classroom that is supposed to be completely peanut free, including no "may contains"?/p
pI'm almost ashamed to be posting this question because you would think that I would have been in there checking food since Day 1 of Jesse starting school. On the other hand, if the lunches/snacks have been like this for the past three years, Jesse has never had a reaction at school. So, do I have to put something into place about the unsafe food or just let it slip? IMHO I don't think I should let it slip simply because I just discovered that it may be going on and also because it is the start of a new school year./p
pI'd really appreciate any advice anyone has because I'm really ashamed of myself and disturbed by what I did see to-day as far as the things being unidentifiable by me as safe or unsafe. /p
pMany thanks and best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]/p

Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2002 - 3:27am
DebO's picture
Joined: 03/15/1999 - 09:00

Hi Cindy
In yesterday's thread we were talking about the "may contains". I honestly do not expect the teacher to weed them out - so long as my daughter does not eat them herself I consider the risk to be minimal. She is in grade 3 now and knows not to eat anyone else's snack and I trust her (she wouldn't eat the muffins her babysitter made yesterday, for example, until she asked me first). So her teacher checks for peanut butter or peanut containing foods (peanut butter cookies, the peanut chocolate bars in the lunchables, for example). Any kids with these items eat in the hall and then wash up before being allowed back into the classroom.
As an aside, my daughter has had a reaction to touching an empty peanut shell and yet has never had a reaction at school (touch wood) with this sort of screening taking place.
take care

Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2002 - 5:13am
Gail W's picture
Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

We came to the same conclusion as DebO. For the first few weeks of kindergarten, I checked lunches and snacks of all of her classmates daily. If they brought a snack with PB, I switched it with something in their lunch so that the classroom would remain "nut-free". The teacher had a sheet she'd developed for me and I would indicate which lunches had pb (or questionable-- like those baggies with unlabeled crakers), and which lunches were eligible for the Peanut Free table. Then, h*** broke lose.
Parents complained that their child's privacy was invaded because a parent was ransacking their lunches. Six moms set up a meeting with the principal. She defended me, thank goodness, by saying that the school had asked me to do this. But you know what? I agree with them. I shouldn't have done it, and I shouldn't have been asked to do it. I did it to be helpful and keep my dd safe because the teacher/school hadn't figured out how to do it yet. But it was terrible and it took years to undo the damage caused those first couple weeks of kindergarten.
My advice is to not check the food. That is a job the school needs to figure out how to properly get done without your involvement. I know that you, too, are just trying to help out and fill a void that the school hasn't been able to address. But beware. It might hurt you in the long term.

Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2002 - 6:27am
Gadget's picture
Joined: 10/01/2001 - 09:00

Honestly, I think I would be a little miffed if a parent was rifling through my son's lunch! I really don't want a strangers hands all over my child's food! (even if it is in a package). As for my son's class, they have "requested" no peanut products in the entire school(may contains are allowed and I fully support this). It is only 3 weeks into school and already the teacher told me there has been peanut butter in the classroom!! It was actually the child's lunch that he had brought because he stays for extended care (Kindergarten is only 1/2 day, so there is snack but no lunch). Now, I was a little peeved because this family has no idea if my son is in extended care or not (he's not), and they have been asked to not send pb products, but they sent it anyway!! That aside, I am confident in the way the teacher handles situations like this. She had him put his sandwich away, she washed the table off, washed his hands, and then washed her own hands! I really can't ask for more than that. She is doing her best, and I know there will always be that one parent whose child "only eats peanut butter" (yeah, right--so you serve pb for breakfast, lunch and dinner????) so this is something we will always have to deal with. I think checking each child's lunch is extreme and an invasion of privacy. As long as your child knows to only eat his/her own food, and the teacher is on the lookout for any obvious peanut products and takes care of them promptly, and also knows how to handle an accidental exposure, that is really all you can do. If you check the lunches, you run the risk of angering the entire class and possibly never getting them on your side!

Posted on: Wed, 09/04/2002 - 7:46am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

In my son's kindergarten class, the parents send in sealed, boxed snacks to feed the entire class. I come in every two weeks to check the ingredients of the stash of snacks(so the teacher doesn't have to) to make sure peanuts are not listed in the ingredient label. If we find a package that is, we just switch it with something from another teacher's snack supply.

Posted on: Thu, 09/05/2002 - 12:04pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I must say that the above responses were quite interesting for me to read. And yet, all of you said basically what I had said, that I felt as though I was invading the children's privacy by going through their lunchboxes. However. Last year, Jesse had an educational aide in the classroom who did exactly that. However, she didn't have to rifle through knapsacks to get the lunchboxes out.
What the children did was when they came into the classroom, the e.a. had a table set up and each child put his lunchbag on the table for the e.a. to check. He had an e.a. in the classroom so that the teacher would not be hindered by label checking.
And with our "peanut free" classroom, we do not allow "may contain" products into it.
Jesse has never had a reaction at school and there is a good handwashing procedure in place (although I've never stayed to watch that either).
I am concerned about the Vachon Joe Louis sandwich things - they're not a healthy snack to begin with but then who am I to comment on the healthiness of a child's lunch? And the mysterious crackers.
There were only a couple of blatant peanut product items that were in there.
What I think I'm going to do is perhaps just let this go. I'm sure the e.a. didn't catch everything last year and I'm sure that his JK and SK teacher didn't either (although she was adamant about no "may contains" in her classroom). It wasn't something I felt comfortable doing, but I would feel comfortable if an e.a. was assigned to the room to do it. That's what a "peanut free" classroom is here.
However, on the other side of the coin, letters did go out to the whole school population acknowledging that there are peanut anaphylactic children in the school - there is also a child in Grade 1 and basically the principal would be attempting to *reduce the risk*. I think I'm not going to sweat it about the lunches. Jesse knows not to share food, knows about handwashing, etc. and I'm darned sure that in the past three years some other things have come through the classroom that shouldn't have.
I didn't even know how to follow-up re this with the teacher to-day so I didn't. It's the first week of school and people are allowed to make mistakes, especially when some of them didn't find out until Tuesday that their children are in a peanut free classroom. When I went into the class on Tuesday morning to see the teacher, a couple of the kids actually asked me to check their lunch.
My other idea which I presented to the teacher was that the children could help read the labels themselves but for some reason she didn't feel this group of children would be able to do that. I don't know why because Jesse's grade 1 class last year for the first two months was doing that. It's empowering for the children. I truly believe that.
To-day, I was leaving the school when the teacher came up and asked me to place the "peanut free" posters where I thought was appropriate. Well, I didn't really think it was up to me where I thought it was appropriate, but I knew where the posters had gone in previous schools. A peanut free classroom went outside her wall. Then, one beside the gym and one beside the library/computer room.
I feel as though I have come across as an extremist somehow, and I'm not. I just know what Jesse's rights are here (i.e., "peanut free" classroom) and I do strongly believe that they should be adhered to. But then, I really had that sinking feeling yesterday that I was invading the privacy of other children. Did I invade it for a good reason?
In my mind, yes. Did I like it? No.
I think the other thing that bothers me is that obviously the teacher wasn't label reading on the previous day or there wouldn't have been a Butterfinger bar in the garbage.
She wants me to compile a list of what cookies and crackers are safe. Sure, I can give her the Safe Snack and Lunch List but my soul, we all know that these things can change.
It's a hard call, but I really appreciate the input of everyone here, who seems to have a very different idea of how a "peanut free" classroom is run. Seriously, I do.
Many thanks and best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Thu, 09/05/2002 - 11:39pm
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

It's not unusual for someone to check lunches especially if this is a new situation for the group. It's not easy for people to 'get it' and don't we know that. They do this in day camps, and schools. A lunch is not a private thing, (the kids eat it in front of everyone, in a public place, and you can usually tell what they had an hour later as it's still on their little faces), and certainly not if it could contain dangerous products. The teacher decided that Cindy would be the volunteer to do this, and that's her call. The teacher has a right to decide the best way to keep her classroom safe. She's the one who has to deal with any tragedies, not some parent too busy or too lazy or too ignorant to look at a label.

Posted on: Thu, 09/05/2002 - 11:40pm
river's picture
Joined: 07/15/1999 - 09:00

It's not unusual for someone to check lunches especially if this is a new situation for the group. It's not easy for people to 'get it' and don't we know that. They do this in day camps, and schools. A lunch is not a private thing, (the kids eat it in front of everyone, in a public place, and you can usually tell what they had an hour later as it's still on their little faces), and certainly not if it could contain dangerous products. The teacher decided that Cindy would be the volunteer to do this, and that's her call. The teacher has a right to decide the best way to keep her classroom safe. She's the one who has to deal with any tragedies, not some parent too busy or too lazy or too ignorant to look at a label.

Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2002 - 5:58am
Gail W's picture
Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

Just to clarify, I think that the moms upset by my checking their child's lunches didn't like the fact that I had this decision-making capacity. I think they resented my having this "power" and degree of involvement. It was viewed as pushy, controlling, and an "invasion of privacy". It reinforced their unfounded perception that I was over-protective and neurotic.
Was any of that true? Of course not. And whether or not they understood that food needed to be checked (nevermind the fact that I was ASKED to do it by the school) didn't matter to them.
Of course I agree that the food needs to be checked by someone, and that this is not unusual. My concern for you is just that even if you are asked by the school/teacher to take on this role that there might be some resentment and backlash by other parents that could work against you.
It's unfortunate that all we parents of PA kids are trying to do it help the school with these added safeguards that our children need. I just hope that your good intentions to help-- even at the teacher's request-- aren't counterproductive as in my experience.
I learned the hard way that (at least in our school situation) it is best for the school to be the ones who voice the school's policies and to be the one who implement them. I think that's their job. I have learned to direct any parent's questions about the school's policies on PA to the principal.
But you can be sure that I am comforatble checking up on staff to make sure that they are doing all this properly!

Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2002 - 6:47am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I still haven't addressed my concerns re what I found in the lunches/snacks with Jesse's teacher yet. I can do it by e-mail over the week-end which is usually the way that I deal with the school.
The teacher didn't have me come in any other day this week so I'm not clear if that means she's checking the food herself or trusts that there won't be any unsafe food brought in. I can certainly address this via e-mail.
But what about the unsafe foods that I saw - the Vachon Joe Louis things? Now, these are "may contain" items. What about them?
I know that in previous schools, there was some sort of letter that went home with a student if they brought an unsafe food into the classroom, but you know what? I haven't seen that either, so I don't even know what it says.
Gail W., I completely understand what you're saying. For other non-PA parents, it's probably bad enough (although recent on-line chat rooms have shown otherwise - see Cayley's Mom's thread re a Chatelaine discussion on peanut free schools), that a peanut free classroom has been implemented. I'm not clear if they would know that it is the parent of the PA child that requests this. In our case, it's pretty clear that we requested it or at least were part of it because we sent out a more personalized letter this year to the class. At any rate, to get back to my point for Gail, it's probably difficult enough, but then to have that same parent actually in there monitoring the children's lunches could be construed as offensive and an invasion of privacy. I certainly understand what you're saying, Gail. Get someone else to do it and follow-up on whether it is being done properly, but keep out of it myself.
I'm going to have to try to figure out this week-end how to approach the teacher via e-mail about what I saw the other day. I am concerned that the food has to be checked each day, especially for blatant peanut products like the Butterfinger bar that she missed the other day, and I do think that some type of note should go home re the Vachon Joe Louis. I'm trying to figure out what my particular problem with them is. Maybe it's because I really enjoyed their line of products when I was a child.
river, I really believe that you clarified what I had done, that I was doing it of my own accord, etc. I was glad to see you post in this thread.
ryan's mom, I would love for the situation to be the same as in your child's class. Boxes with ingredient labels right there.
Interestingly enough, to-day, Jesse came home with none of his snack food eaten. I asked him how come he hadn't eaten snacks to-day and apparently because one child mis-behaved none of the kids got snack time. I also find this a bit odd. Apparently, the teacher did give out pieces of apple herself and I know that I certainly survived the whole day of school without two snacks, but I was surprised that they would be considered a privilege.
Many thanks and best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Fri, 09/06/2002 - 9:41am
Codyman's picture
Joined: 08/14/2002 - 09:00

I have never checked the lunches of the other children in the classroom nor have I asked anyone from the school to do so.
Last year, my daughter's teacher told me when a student brought an unsafe food item to school. It happened twice (peanut butter sandwich and Nutella sandwich) and it was later in the school year. I was glad that the teacher was checking. My daughter has the same teacher this year so I am confident that she will continue to check what the students are eating. Although, I understand her way of checking is when the children are sitting at the tables with their lunch bags open --she doesn't look thru the bags without the students having opened them first.

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