Food Allergy Management Program

by Heidi Rudy

A state law that became effective January 1, 2011, requires that all Illinois school districts implement policies and procedures for preventing and managing life-threatening allergic reactions at school. In compliance with Public Act 96-349, our Board of Education adopted Policy 7:285-Food Allergy Management Program in November of 2010.  The Food Allergy Management Program found at the link below outlines all procedures and forms related to the Board policy.

In order to effectively manage life-threatening food allergies, schools have the responsibility to monitor foods provided for students and to control distribution of foods that may contain allergens.  This is a daunting task.  While we can implement controls and appropriate cleaning procedures in and around the lunch room, we do not have the personnel capacity or expertise to check and verify that foods eaten in every classroom are allergen-free and that all surfaces are cleaned frequently and effectively enough to prevent transfer of allergens.  Students with allergies travel throughout the building into other classrooms and common areas every day, so, restricting food only in their homeroom classrooms will not suffice. The consequence of doing something wrong in these cases is irreversible.  A major medical incident that results from an allergic reaction in a situation that could have been prevented would be a tragedy.   

Therefore, these procedures are in effect for all of our students:

  1. Students who wish to celebrate their birthday at school may donate a book for the classroom library or bring a classroom supply (e.g., pencil, eraser, small notepad, crayons, markers) for each student in the class.  Edible birthday treats will not be allowed. 
  2. The only refreshment that can be served at classroom celebrations/parties is 100% juice or bottled water (individual containers only).  There will be no food served during school celebrations/parties.  Crafts and other activities will be the focus of such celebrations.  “Goody bags” and any other edible treats will not be sent home with students.  Any edibles and goody bags that are brought/sent to school will be held in the school office for the sending parents to pick up.  Food items that are not picked up after one week will be discarded.
  3. Snacks will generally not be permitted during school hours.  Students may drink water through the day, unless water bottles are prohibited by an individual class, grade level, or school disciplinary restriction.  Exceptions:  1) An individual class or grade level may allow a fresh fruit or fresh vegetable snack with the principal's approval if the schedule is such that there is an extended period of time from the start of school until the lunch period.  The approval of this exception will be at the sole discretion of the building principal.  2) Food required to meet a component of a student’s Section 504 Plan or IEP is allowed. The building 504 team will address any issues that arise when the needs of students' 504 plans and/or IEPs conflict.
  4. Food will not be consumed in curricular activities. Teachers will carefully evaluate foods that are used in science experiments and other curricular activities to avoid allergens. Teachers will select non-food substitutions for learning activities whenever feasible.
  5. Students may not share food with each other at school.
  6. Parents may bring/send lunch or purchase a school lunch for their children only.
  7. Lunches and food for staff and parent meetings, extracurricular and building user events will be consumed only in the following locations:  Kitchens, cafeteria (place designated as the student lunch room in each school), staff lunch room, gymnasium, concession stand, principal's office, assistant principal's office, individual staff offices, school and district office conference rooms, grade level work rooms, Early Childhood room, Pre-K room, vendor preschool room and vendor childcare room. Rooms used for special education and other rooms designated by the building principal may also be used for food service. In all cases, a sign notifying room occupants that non-allergen free food may be consumed in the room must be posted at all entries to such rooms. See enclosed list of rooms for additional details.
  8. Food from external vendors will generally be discouraged. If a special lunch for students is pre-approved by the building principal, participating students MUST have written parental consent to participate in the event.
  9. Hard mints that contain no allergens may be consumed by middle school students as approved by the school's nurse and building principal. Hard mints that contain no allergens may be consumed by River Valley School students during high stakes testing (i.e., MAP and PARCC).
  10. Because the district cannot control the actions of visitors who attend meetings and other events in the schools during after school hours, the Director of Operations will ensure that all tables and other touchable surfaces (e.g., door handles, light switches, etc.) will be allergy-cleaned following all after school meetings that take place in the schools.

We belong to a learning community that is dedicated to the well-being of its children, so we must protect the health and safety of our students to the best of our ability.  If you have any questions about these procedures, please contact your school’s nurse.  Thank you for your cooperation in following these procedures for food at school.  The support of our parents and families is vital to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all.

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