Friday, March 30, 2012

The Outcast....I mean Peanut Table

The last 10 years has seen a huge growth in peanut allergies. Peanut allergies affect about 1.3% of the population and are the leading cause of sever food allergic reactions. I wonder why that is? When I was in school you NEVER heard about peanut/tree-nut allergies- or very, very rarely. Now- there is at least one child with a severe peanut allergy in every classroom. Probably more than that. - with no explanation why. One theory suggests  that “clean living” and more medication use leaves immune systems in a condition that is more prone to attack harmless proteins, such as those in foods, pollens, and animal dander. It is a very scary thing- and I am thankful that we don't have to deal with that with any of our kids.

Gone are the days of throwing together a PB&J sandwich for your kid's lunch. Treats for parties must be approved first, and many classrooms  now actually  ban  treats from home for birthdays and class parties. Having been a room mom- I know first hand what it is like trying to plan a party around allergies- luckily I  have a good line of communication with the parents that have kids with allergies so there is not any confusion on what they can or cannot have.

So what happens if a child DOES bring a PB&J for lunch? Well- they sit at "The Peanut Table" as far removed from the rest of the cafeteria as possible, without actually having them sit in the hallway.  Don't get me wrong- I know the dangers of a severe peanut allergy, and I know that peanuts don't actually have to be ingested to cause a sever reaction requiring an Epi Pen and a trip to the hospital.  And I am sure most parents know that as well- and don't send their kids with PB&J in their lunch.  But........... I am sure some do- and they get to sit in Siberia. (again- please don't mistake this as bashing kiddos with peanut allergies)   I have heard that a lot of schools "Isolation Table" is strictly FOR the kids with the allergies. Our schools basically just went "Peanut Free" and that was that. There was a lot of complaining and grumbling, but eventually the rest of us just got used to it.

The Peanut Table. In Siberia.

This table in The Boy's cafeteria is all the way back in a corner, by the milk coolers. It is about 5-7 or so feet away from the next nearest table. There are usually 3 chairs and nobody else is allowed to sit there.  Again- while I understand the danger- can you see why I call this The Outcast Table? Since the school is grades 3-5, I would hope those that pack lunches tell their parents no peanut butter, because what 8-11 year old wants to be ostracized and not be able to chat with friends at lunch?
Yum- Ants on a Log

I am just flabbergasted that a staple in most households holds such danger for so many now. I eat peanut butter by the spoonfuls, I used to do a food theme in my preschool class and they would make Ants on a Log. During our unit on the circus I would bring peanuts in to shell, eat and then use the shells at the sensory table and in art projects.  Alas, those days are long gone.   Substitutions such as cream cheese and Nutella are usually acceptable, and it's not that hard to roll with the changes. 

If you have a child with a peanut/tree nut allergy- what issues do you have with public schools? Has your school gone "Peanut Free". Do you have a 504 in place for your child?  Have you encountered irritation or downright hostility because of it?   Let me know- I am very curious!