Food philosophy from A to B (allergies to birthdays)
The Stanley community is no different than many others in that it encompasses families with different expectations around eating – whether it be accommodating vegan or vegetarian diets, dairy-free, gluten-free or wheat- or soy-free diets, or life-threatening peanut or other food-related allergies.
At the same time, the Stanley community participates regularly in celebrations that bring together students, staff and families. Many of these special events include preparing and sharing meals and traditional fare, which can be a strong aspect of one’s identity or family. These special occasions give us a chance to share a bit of ourselves with others. For these reasons, Stanley continues to have special gatherings that include the sharing of food.
Including kids with food allergies/sensitivities
For individuals with food allergies, in particular those with anaphylaxis reactions, an open menu can be life-threatening. In our cafeteria, Stanley works to create an environment where individuals with food allergies are empowered to advocate for themselves and build the skills necessary to navigate tricky situations with food. In our classrooms, we ask parents’ help to make celebrations and observations as inclusive and equitable as possible – food-related triggers can exclude some students from participating in celebrations centered around dessert or food.
While Stanley cannot guarantee a food-related reaction will not occur at school, we diligently follow the approach below to minimize the risk any student with food-related allergies has at school. Developed by the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these best practices for managing food allergies in schools are also recommended by Children’s Hospital Colorado:
- Providing professional development for all staff
- Preparing for food allergy emergencies
- Creating and maintaining a healthy and safe educational environment
- Educating children and families about food allergies
- Ensuring the daily management of food allergies in individual children
New: Food-free birthday celebrations
One key aspect of Stanley’s food philosophy involves birthday celebrations: Birthdays should not involve food or introduce food into the classrooms. Celebrations of the person (and not the food) are more inclusive, equitable and healthy – and less about who can or cannot share in the dessert or special meal. Building on practices already in place throughout Stanley, teacher-led celebrations in the classroom focus on each child and the special time for that individual student.
Parent responsibility when participating in celebrations during the school year: For events that include food at school, watch for a sign-up or other communication about allergens in the classroom, and list ingredients clearly. Parents are always welcome to contact the student health coordinator with questions about food.
Parents/guardians should listen for direction from teachers during back-to-school nights and via email, and/or contact classroom teachers to understand how and when birthdays will be celebrated in your classroom.
Questions? Contact the student health coordinator
Please feel free to email or call our student health coordinator Melissa Knott with any questions regarding medications, care plans, food safety and celebrations or other student health-related issues. She can be reached at email@example.com or (303) 360-0803, ext. 188.
A note about food-safe zones
Since any one food important for one student’s health may be hazardous for another, Stanley does not support safe-food zones. Our student medical partner, Children’s Hospital Colorado, and many leading allergy medical practices recommend against safe-food zones. The key reason we’ve adopted this approach is that a safe-food zone can set expectations for an allergen-free zone; in such an environment, students can stumble into allergens rather than developing the skill of asking questions and advocating for themselves around food ingredients.
Parent responsibility when your student has a food-related allergy: If food allergies are present in your student, parents/guardians should complete and sign a Colorado Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan and Medication Order to be sure your child’s health needs will be met (find all forms at stanleybps.org/medical). You can also contact the student health coordinator to share details to support your child at school with his/her food allergies.