Sunday, August 24, 2008

Where Are All the Nut-Free Schools?

I've gotten this question a lot lately--personally, besides preschools, I don't know of any schools in my area that have total bans on nut products.

Do any of you? Where do you live and what are the policies there?

It would be great if we could have consistency w/regard to food allergy policies, but since state and local governments are so diverse, I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

Interestingly, the FAAN does not support a ban on nut products at elementary schools. (They do endorse them for preschool--due to the fact that young kids are famous for smearing food around and sticking their fingers in their mouths.)

It's a tricky topic all right. If any of you know of, or attend a "nut-free" elementary school, please post and let us know. Thanks!


Karen said...

I live in Canada, I saw the schools go nut free, about fifteen years ago. For other allergies "free from tables" for other severe allergies, more recently.

LISE said...

In Qu├ębec, Canada almost all the elementary schools are peanut and nut free.

Joanne B. said...

After a meeting with my son's school nurse, kindergarten teacher and lead administrator, they are making both kindergarten classes nut free as the children eat lunch in the classroom. a HUGE relief for me!

Jenny said...

Congratulations, Joanne. It sounds like you needed a nut-free kindergarten since the kids eat in the classroom. Great job getting the message across! You've also paved the way for parents in your same situation.

Also, from the sound of things so far, it looks like we can learn a lot from Canada.

I have a question for our Canadian nut-free moms: how does the peanut/nut ban go over with the non-allergic families? Many of us in the U.S. have been told by school administrators that other parents would never tolerate a nut ban at school.

An insights you can provide would be great!

Jennifer B said...

Our schools are not nut-free. Nearly all local preschools, including the public preschool program, ARE nut-free. In fact, there are very few public schools in Massachusetts which are peanut/nut-free. I have found more private schools which are nut-free.

I must note, however, that last school year I counted 8 out of 10 elementary school classrooms at the nearest elementary school were "peanut-free", which helps with snack time. At lunch time, there is the peanut, tree nut and sesame-free table. When I casually raised the subject of banning PB, it was definitely not received warmly by the school nurse, the contact person for food allergies at our school.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

The Eldest doesn't go to a nut-free school, but to reduce stress, his classroom is Eldest-friendly.

Nuts are the tip of my allergy iceberg, and I do believe that a nut-free school doesn't guarantee you that much. There's such a wide variety of what the "-free" part means...

J.Friedman said...

what should you do when the school does not make the class nut free. My son is entering kindergarten this year. The school is aware that my son is highly allergic to peanut and other tree nuts. Although the school has made arrangements for my son to eat away from the cafeteria that is full of nuts and asked parents to be considerate of my son's nut allergies. There is no rule banning his classmates from eating nuts. Since I know cleaning a class of 5 year olds hands, mouth, and clothing from peanuts without leaving trace amounts behind...What is a parent to do. I reiterate my son is extremely allergic .... Any suggestions ( I live in NY)

Jenny said...

J.--First of all, I sympathize with your plight. I also found myself confronting school officials on this very issue. You're right--kindergarten kids are "messy" eaters and you have a legitimate concern.

My suggestions are the following: Get a note from your allergist describing your son's severe allergy in specific detail and outlining that your son would do best, at this age, in a "nut-free" environment.

Next, I would find out if any other parents in the school have kids with peanut allergies. (Chances are very high that there are several--esp. in the kindergarten age group.) Band together with them and ask to speak with the principal about your concerns. For example, even if the cafeteria isn't nut-free, the kindergarten classrooms should be. Also, the teacher can encourage parents to bring non-edible items to celebrate birthdays, etc. If you can't find another parent, go with your partner bring your doctor's note.

Dr. Hugh Sampson, one of the medical heads of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, recommends that kindergarten and preschool kids be kept in a nut-free environment for the reasons you state. You can read his views on the FAAN website or Google it and print it out to bring with you to your meeting with the principal.

The cafeteria issue is trickier--my daughter ate in a cafeteria that allowed peanut/nut products although she ate at nut-free table. She never had a reaction based on exposure to other kids' lunches, though she is also extremely allergic. Handwashing before and after lunch is your best bet--generally unless a kids' clothing is really covered in peanut butter your child should not be affected. Still, I'd ask the teacher to do a "peanut check" of each kid as they enter the classroom after lunch. Many schools do this type of thing so don't be shy about asking.

I'd also recommend being the "Treats Dad" for your son's class parties (like holiday parties, etc.) That way you can ensure the food is safe for your son.

I know this is a very scary time--when my child began kindergarten I was very anxious. There are no easy answers, but if you are firm and keep your cool, you can accomplish a lot with your school. My daughter's first school (we've since moved) instituted peanut-free kindergartens a year after I first started raising these issues with them.

Feel free to contact me any time with questions. Good luck and please keep us posted!

Best to you and your family,

Jenny said...

One thing I should clarify: I didn't mean to imply it woudl take a year to get a nut-free kindergarten for your son--the school can and should accomodate him ASAP. I meant that this became general policy after I brought up the subject. Good luck! :)

Amy said...

I was hoping that our school would be willing to make our kindergarten classroom nut-free as well. I was lucky to not have much in the way of resistance. I did, however, paint a very horrid picture of an anaphylactic reaction (well, it would be horrid...) in which of course emergency procedures would need to be followed, (nobody wants to have to use the Epi-Pens!) From there I stressed to the teacher (I had the luxory of meeting her in advance) and principal that PREVENTION would be the key. Though there WOULD ALWAYS be some kind of risk, proper prevention techniques would lessen the risk by a huge margin.

My requests:
-NO NUTS in the classroom
-Always wash hands before eating
-Always wash hands after eating
-Always wash hands after playing (inside AND outside)


Stacey said...

I am attempting to start a plight, with the encouragement of our school nurse, to start to petition the school system's head of nutritional department to make our schools nut free. Does anyone have any tips or tricks to help? I'm also not finding any statistics that are helpful to include. Does anyone have any? Thanks.

donna.sadler said...

Holy Trinity School in Norfolk,VA offers grade K3 to 8th. Holy Trinity is a Food Allergy Aware School. All teachers and staff receive epi-pen training. Teachers are up to date on all individual emergency plans (even if they do not have an allergic child in their class). For more information you can call the school at 757-583-1873. Holy Trinity School, 154 W. Government Ave. Norfolk, VA. 23503. My daughter is deadly allergic to peanuts. She has attended the school for 3 years with no problems.
The Principal, teachers and staff are so receptive and communicative to families about the prevalence of food allergies. This school is Food Allergy Aware and practices food allergy safety (school is not peanut free BUT, they do not serve any peanut products). They support the efforts of the Food Allergy parents and children attending the school. Holy Trinity School follows FAAN Guidelines and all teachers and staff are epi-pen trained yearly. All teachers are aware emergency plans and they are kept up to date on all students with Food Allergies. The school does not serve any peanut product in the cafeteria.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother of 3 children, none of whom are allergic to any food, and our elementary school recently announced that it is "nut-free".

I have a hard time believing this, because I think those who believe that a nut is so dangerous that it needs to be completely banned from a school are NUTS!

I fully support washing hands before and after eating, separate tables are fine, but completely banning any nuts? Seriously? For all grades?

As a mom of picky eaters, and a health-conscious person I find it an affront to my attempts at feeding my children a balanced diet. To those children who aren't big fans of meat and/or dairy, banning nuts is pretty harsh, as they can be a significant source of much-needed protein. Nuts are also full of fiber, nutrients and extremely healthy fats and fatty-acids.

I am truly sorry that a few people out there have nut allergies, but seriously are you planning on raising them in a bubble for eternity? Adults I know who have severe nut allergies don't even ban nuts in their own homes. I don't expect your children to behave like adults - but as parents, I think you should try!

Jenny said...

To the last commenter: you may want to try your own advice and act like an adult yourself. You clearly are ignorant on the topic of nut allergies if you call people concerned for their children who have had severe reactions "nuts." You're also original--we've never heard that one before.

You might want to try visiting for info on the severity of nut allergies. You also say your kids are picky eaters. So fine--serve them nuts at home. If that's your school policy, then it's because enough students are severely allergic enough to warrant it.

I am always amazed at how some parents persecute those of us with severely allergic kids (by the way, a severe allergies of any kind are a medial condition--unlike picky eating). Severe food allergies are also a disability under the law.

Our kids are not "picky eaters" whose parents cater to their food whims and then feel justified to write nasty messages to parents of children who can't help what they can and can't eat.

I'm thrilled your school is a nut-free school. You are free to feed your kid whatever you want at home. If they can't live without peanut butter for a few hours a day then maybe your problems are even bigger than you think ours are. Have a good one!

Anonymous said...

I have to say to the mom who thinks food allergic parents are "nuts" - you are soooooo lucky to be in a position where you can be so ignorant. I remember a long time ago, before I even knew the details of food allergy by living them, that I worked as a waitress in a restaurant. I had a client come in and request specific prep for food because they had an allergy to shellfish. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking "Whatever! Then don't eat out." And now my son has food allergy and I totally get it. I don't know, maybe it's karma, but all I can say to you is - look out baby, karma can be a real pill. Maybe having empathy and cooperation with others will get that for you when you need it. And be certain we all need empathy and cooperation - many times. Try building some good karma for a change.

Anonymous said...

I live in Canada as well, and most of the school around my area are NUT free. not just peanut free. At first I thought it was silly, but after learning how many kids (and adults) are so severely allergic, I don't mind any more. pb and j sandwiches are easy to make and are my sons personal favorite but he can wait and have one at home. I think it's a good idea and think more schools should follow suit.

Anonymous said...

I think its funny that schools are set on serving peanut butter because its cheap. I feel as if they are putting a price tag on my sons head.

I live in St Joseph MO. We do not have a peanut free school but has come along ways since 2009. When my son started kindergarten, he ate a lone in the hallway. After fighting the school board and being placed in a school where the principal is personally dealing with the same type of situation--- we have a peanut-free classroom and lunch table. It works for now, but I am not done fighting for a peanut free school.

The school board told me that there is not enough children in our dist. that has the severe allergy to have any of them peanut free. How many child have to suffer and/or die for schools to open their eyes....

Anonymous said...

I have a child who is severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts as well as having been diagnosed with asthma at an early age. I believed that he was safe at school because of the "peanut free zone" in the cafeteria and the ban of peanuts and tree nuts from his classroom, but I was mistaken. Upon having a reaction to touching a classmate I have begun the stages to push for the school to ban peanuts and nuts completely. I live in NY and am having a hard time finding other schools that have implemented the ban. Any suggestions on how to find which schools if any are peanut and nut free in NY?

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank Jenny for answering the anonymous & nameless blogger who doesn't have children with food allergies and thinks us moms that worry daily for our children's safety due to severe food allergies are "nuts". You said it a lot nicer than I think I could, so thank you! It must be nice to not have to worry about your child's safety if he or she eats a nut or other food item that could kill him. I think one of the biggest problems is educating folks on how severe and deadly a food could be to certain individuals. Who could ever live with himself knowing that a child died because you wanted your allergy free kid to eat his peanut butter and jelly sandwich because you think it's his right. It's disgusting to me!

Anonymous said...

Try They have a list of sensitive schools.

Tracy Palmer said...

hi, does anyone have any current (december 2012) on finding nut-free schools? do they exist? we are planning a move in the nyc tri-state area and i would live to find a PA/TNA friendly school before we move. are private schools a better option? thank you!!!

Allison Villafane-Kaplan said...

Tracy Palmer--I am on a similar quest (Long Island schools). Did you have any luck? Thanks.