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Dealing with Food Allergies at School

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Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Preschools & Daycare > Dealing with Food Allergies at School


Questions about Preschool Questions about Elementary School Related Pages

Questions about Preschool


Preschools friendly for kids with nut allergies

Jan 2011

We just found out that my 3 year old daughter has a severe tree nut allergy. We're in the middle of applying for preschools in Oakland and a few we've seen so far did not seem very accommodating to her needs. Does anyone know of any preschools in Oakland that are prepared to deal with serious allergies? Katherine


I would call Lakeview Preschool in the Grand Lake area. I think the number is 444-1725. We have been there for 3 years and I notice that each day there are notes on the sign in sheets about what things a particular child cannot eat. We (knock wood) have not dealt with any allergies for our kids; so I can't personally attest, but I am sure that if you call and talk with Madeline or Kathy that they would be happy to talk you through procedures and tell you right away if they would be able to accommodate your child or not. PLUS, it is an AWESOME school. It is unbelievable how much the kids grow and learn. Good luck!
Katherine, I saw your post on Berkeley Parents Network and wanted to respond. For any child with severe food allergies, I highly recommend The Berkeley School http://theberkeleyschool.org). We picked the preschool specifically because it was the only one that we found that was prepared to deal with severe food allergies and had actual extensive experience doing so. The preschool campus has a no-nut/peanut policy.

My older daughter is four and has;a number of severe food allergies, including peanut and nut allergies. By severe, I mean that ingesting even a tiny amount is enough to trigger anaphylaxis. She has been at the school since Fall of 2008. I can't say enough about what a wonderful job her teachers have done in dealing with her allergies. There are several other kids in her class with overlapping allergies and they manage everyone's very well.

The school provides peanut- and nut-free snacks and the teachers and staff always make sure that each child only eats the snacks that are safe for them. All of the kids bring their own lunches and eat together under close supervision so the teachers can make sure there is no food sharing. The lunches are supposed to be nut and peanut free. On the rare (once or twice) occasions when a family has forgotten - reminders are sent out instantly. The teachers cook with the kids often and have adapted all of their recipes to ensure that no allergens are included (not easy, as some of the kids are allergic to wheat too!)

To give you a sense of how many foods they have had to screen, my daughter is also allergic to dairy, egg, fish, sesame, and strawberries; she was allergic to soy, garlic, beef, and pork, but has outgrown those allergies.

In addition to the food allergy issue, it is a terrific school - fabulous teachers and a really caring community. She has grown socially, emotionally, and intellectually in so many ways during her time at the school. We feel really lucky to have found a place where we our daughter is thriving and we don't have to worry about her all day. We are planning to start our younger daughter there in the fall - she also has peanut and nut allergies.

I know the school is not in the geographic area that you are looking, but it is definitely worth considering.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Regards, Carol


My sons' school, Shu Ren international School in Berkeley, is 100% nut free and has a great preschool. It is taught all in Mandarin and is theme-based learning, following the IB curriculum. My children come home with tons of artworks and are very happy there. You should go check them out. They are located at 1333 University Avenue. They will also be at the preschool fair this weekend in Oakland. Happy Shuren Parent
Definitely Montessori Family School located at 1850 Scenic in Berkeley (near the north side of the UC Berkeley campus). The school is nut-free and takes this very seriously. They recognize the severity of this allergy and families who attend the school understand that they must abide by this policy. This policy is carried out at the campus located at 7075 Cutting Blvd. in El Cerrito where grades K through 8 attend. My child has been in the school at the El Cerrito site for three years and I have volunteered a lot at the school and have witnessed firsthand the teachers and staff faithfully ensuring that the nut-free policy is enforced. Lunches are checked to make sure that no nuts are included and there have been no problems in the three years our family has been part of the school. Pleased parent
I'll second the recommendation that you look at Lakeview Preschool. Our son has a variety of food allergies (wheat, dairy, nuts, soy, strawberries, etc.). Lakeview is a nut free campus. All of the food is provided by the school for the kids who don't have special dietary needs so you don't have to worry about another child having nuts in their lunch. Also, the teacher to student ratio is excellent (8 to 1 I think) so there are always lots of adult eyes on the kids. Our son brings his food and the teachers know what to do with the food and what foods he can/cannot eat. Plus, it's just a great school and our son is learning a lot - both academically and socially. Jason

Son's dairy and gluten allergies at preschool?

Jan 2011

My son will be 3 next September and we are thinking of preschool/ family daycare 3 mornings a week, but are super freaked out by his possible exposure to gluten and dairy- his 2 big allergens. At the only preschool I looked at they have a tray of crackers out all the time and it would be my son's responsibility not to eat the food. On top of that with 1:6 ratios, I am worried that he will eat someone else's food at lunch. He is really great about asking an adult, but mistakes can happen (i.e., raisin in the granola looks okay...). I hate to think of depriving him of a great socializing experience because of food allergies, but that is where we are at right now. The smallest bit can make him incredibly sick. He has always been home with a vigilant nanny, so exposure hasn't been a problem so far (except for from well-meaning relatives, but I digress). Any preschools/ family daycares you love in the Berkeley area with experience/ sensitivity around these issues? I find places to be open to banning tree nuts, but dairy and gluten are everywhere... Thanks in advance! Don't want son to live in a bubble


Both of my kids have severe food allergies (my daughter swells up even by touching milk), so I had the same concern when I started her in daycare. She went to Sakura Daycare in Oakland and Chishiro (with my guidance) was really careful with my daughter. Accidents do happen, but if there is a plan in place, then things are not as bad as you anticipate. For example, Chishiro knew when to give my daughter Benadryl if needed and knows how to give Epi-pen if needed (my daughter never needed it). I think that my daughter did have some milk that make her sick to her stomach and she vomited it in daycare, but somehow that ended up to be a good thing for my daughter, because she learned what not to eat and touch. She loves to eat, so she would put everything in her mouth if you are not watching her, but because of those few incidents, she learned to ask and actually learned to touch some food (like cookies) to make sure it does not hurt her lips before eating them. Also, she learned to avoid some food and felt okay to not eat them because she does not want to be sick.

I am not sure when you want to start your son in daycare/preschool, but you may want to think about just starting him in preschool to avoid another transition later on. I transitioned my daughter to preschool when she was 2.5 yo, mostly because my son was born and I wanted her to be closer to home (Walnut Creek). It was stressful in term of worrying about her food allergy at a new place, but it was the best transition. She was so ready for preschool! She was the only one with the food allergy, but the teachers were great and food allergy was not even an issue. Her teachers changed the recipe (using soymilk instead of milk, etc) for their cooking lessons, so that my daughter would not feel left out. They made her special cookies w/o milk and egg, etc. And if they can't change the recipe, they just make it when my daughter is not in that day (she is part-time). Again, accidents happen, just yesterday, somebody accidently splashed milk on her and she broke out, so they had to give her a dose of Benadryl and she was fine.

So, basically, it's not as hard and stressful as you think. But when I was searching for daycare/preschool for her, the first question I asked was what do they do with kids with a food allergy and do they feel comfortable taking care of her. And if they feel confident with taking care of her and we like the place, then it's a perfect fit. There was one place that my daughter went in the beginning, but she only lasted half a day, as the caregiver got so nervous with her allergy and eczema that she was 'let go'... but that place would had been the worst fit for us!

You just need to give the daycare/preschool guidance. I also prepared an emergency kit with all my daughter's medication (benadryl, zyrtec, epi-pen, etc) and very specific and clear guidelines as to what to do in case of an accident. You may also want to join a parent group for kids with food allergies. I am not involved with any parent groups, but I saw a posting on BPN earlier by Jennifer Morris (jensmeese@gmail.com) asking to form a food allergy support group, so you may want to try it. I may also join after the crazy holidays. Good luck. Katherine


Our almost-4-year-old has had severe allergies to dairy, egg, and soy. It's great that you're being very cautious about your child's needs as he enters preschool. At our son's preschool, he eats only the food we pack in his lunch box, unless the teachers are absolutely sure he can eat the snack that is set out each day. Sadly, he eats at his own table, separate from the other kids, but that doesn't seem to bother him. Feel free to email me if you want to get in touch with more questions... jean
Hi, I saw your post and wanted to respond. My son has severe allergies to tree nuts and eggs. I would like to recommend his preschool, Rockridge Little School on College Avenue in Oakland. We are in our third year there (as my son has late fall birthday) and am extremely pleased with the way they have handled his food allergies. No nuts of any kind are allowed on the premises, and all the parents, grandparents, caregivers are notified of this. The teachers are very sensitive to his allergies. They go out of their way to make sure he never feels left out. He has special treats in the freezer for birthdays. He is able to eat the snacks they provide for morning snack and I provide his lunch. Please feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss further. I give Rockridge Little School the highest praise for their sensitivity, open communication, and most of all, the opportunit for my son to be able to have a ''normal'' preschool experience. Elena

Preschool that accommodates special diets and food allergies

April 2010

My daughter is 2.5 and I am beginning to look into preschool options, though I find that with each one I brace myself a bit when I see that lunch and snacks are provided as she has multiple allergies, and we are vegetarian. Her allergies, though not life threatening per se, are to gluten, dairy and citrus and we are vegetarian. I know that bay area schools must be used to special needs and vegetarian students (and I really don't mind if she eats meat now and then, but I don't want it to be 5 days a week as it looks like it is at some schools). Does anyone have any recommendations on schools that were particularly accomodating to special diets for your child? Berkeley/north berkeley area preferred (or Rockridge). Thanks for any experiencse you can share. Angela


If her allergies are not life-threatening and she needs to actually eat (not just touch or smell) the food, then I would suggest you tell the schools and offer to supply your own foods. My son has a gluten sensitivity and something is up with him and dairy, too. I just pack his lunch accordingly and am fine if he eats something in the ''no no'' zone for snack. There is a girl in his class with a protein allergy... her mom packs food for her. Another has a peanut/nut allergy... so the class is nut-free across the board. I don't believe a private school is required to accommodate you, but I could be wrong. anon
hi, i don't have any specific suggestions, but my son has similar allergies and is also vegetarian. in daycare and preschool we haven't found this to be a problem. it seems that allergies are unfortunately becoming more common and teachers/staff handle it well. on a larger scale, i am curious how you handle eating in general with your daughter. these dietary changes are new for our family and it's been a struggle. if you are open to emailing me, i would love to hear how your family has adjusted to your daughter's needs. good luck, mazu
I have a child with very serious food allergies. Although most pre schools are moving towards being peanut free that is not one of my child's allergies. Please look for a pre school that would best fit your child and your family. Whether the school offers food that fits your needs or not should be secondary. You can always send a lunch from home. I think every pre school and now elementary school we looked at assured us that there is no food sharing and that extra care would be taken to keep our child away from foods that might hurt her. Go with the pre school that makes you feel good when you walk inside and see the children play and interact. Hope this helps. Michelle

Preschools that have a no-nut policy

July 2007

I was looking at past reviews of preschools that accomodate kids with food allergies, but the most recent one is from 2003. I was wondering if anyone out there could provide more updated information on preschools that either have a ''no peanut policy'' or accomodates a child with multiple food allergies. I am looking in the Rockridge, Montclair, or Temescal areas preferably. Thanks so much. Elena


Though not in your preferred area, the The Snuggery Preschool in Berkeley has a peanut/nut free policy. The staff is very knowledgeable and they make sure no peanut/nut products enter the school. Kids wash their hands and faces after lunch. They are also trained how to use the epipen if needed. Besides making sure your child will stay safe, their program is very good. I'm not sure if they have any openings coming up, but call Nancy Togami, director, at 510-548-9121. Idit
My daughter has a very good friend with a severe peanut allergy. Her mom says: ''As the mother of a preschooler who is very allergic to peanuts (i.e. carries an Epi-Pen), I understand your concern. Although it's a little outside of your search area, I wanted to recommend Berkeley Montessori School to your attention. When we enrolled my daughter there 2 years ago, they did not have a food allergy policy in place, but their response to our needs have been amazing and incredibly comforting.

Within days, they instituted a campus-wide ''no nut'' policy that has been posted at the pick-up and drop-off areas and sent home with parents on several occasions each year. They also have a rule in the classroom that students are not to share their food with one another, just in case. The parents who are responsible for purchasing the snacks that the school provides are informed, and while there has not yet been a single slip-up, the teachers in my daughter's classroom are well-versed in reading the small print on the back of all of the packages. Occasionally, a parent will bring to school a birthday treat that has been exposed to nuts. In every case, the teachers have provided my daughter with an alternate treat, sometimes taking the time to walk down the street to the bakery to buy it. In short, both the administration and the teachers have taken my daughter's special need seriously and have diligently kept her safe and well.

Finally, I would like to mention that before choosing Berkeley Montessori (at that time without a ''no nut'' policy), my daughter attended a preschool that had a pre-existing ''no nut'' policy in place. In spite of that policy, we found food containing nuts at every single special event held at that school (school play, Halloween celebration, etc.) The parents responsible for bringing refreshments to those events were not reminded, nor were the snacks checked once they arrived on site. Our confidence in the organization, responsibility, and care of the Berkeley Montessori staff and community was so strong, that we felt more comfortable trying out a new policy there than trying to stick with a school that had the policy we needed but lacked the organization to enforce it.'' Lisa


September 2001

My son is 17 months old & I am starting to think about preschools. My biggest concern is that he has food allergies (dairy, eggs & peanuts) & if he were to ingest peanuts he could have a very serious reaction. I was recently told about a preschool where they have banned all nut & peanut products out of concern for a child with allergies. I would love to know about any other preschools that are highly responsive to working with kids with food allergies, who take the issue seriously. Also, any advice about this issue in general (managing kids with food allergies in the schools) would be appreciated (I checked the website but found nothing addressing this issue). THANKS Ruth

Recommendations received:

  • Aquatic Park School
  • Cedar Creek Montessori
  • Duck Pond
  • Montessori Family School
  • Step One
  • Temple Sinai Preschool
    Following are excerpts from the replies received. Click on the name of the school to see the rest of the review.
    My son ( who is five and a half now) started going to Montessori Family School when he was three. He like your child has a severe peanut allergy....
    My childrens' preschool, Step One in Berkeley, has banned all peanuts and peanut products and several other nuts and related products due to severe nut allergies.
    My daughter (anaphylactic peanut allergy) went to Temple Sinai Preschool. For helpful food allergy information check out The Food Allergy Network (they have a children's newsletter too), at www.foodallergy.org. Good luck!
    In reply to your request for Preschools with food allergy friendly policies. Our program at Aquatic Park School is very responsive to the specific food needs of our children.....
    My friend sends her son to The Duck Pond on Park Blvd. in the Glenview area of Oakland. You might set up a tour the owners name is Lois. JSOb
    My daughter is at Step One School, where all peanut and tree nut products (and sunflower seeds, chocolate, and various other foods) have been banned because several children are seriously allergic (i.e., contact with the allergen could require hospitalization and could be life threatening). Perhaps this is the school you have heard of.

    My feeling is that a ban is the only responsible thing a school can do if it knows that seriously allergic children attend. I also think that any school would be required by law (under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal law) to make such a reasonable accommodation.

    So I think you should consider all the schools which are otherwise available to you and take an assertive approach to arranging accommodation of your child's serious medical needs. All preschools hold themselves out as valuing inclusiveness and diversity and this issue gives a good chance for schools to show it. Karen


    I'm sure you have already heard about Step One School ....
    My child attends Cedar Creek Montessori in Berkeley. One of her classmates has some allergies ...

    Preschool that will really monitor foods like peanuts

    March 2003

    I've searched the web for past recommendations, but I was hoping to get some updated ones regarding preschools that are very responsive to food allergies.

    From what I read and know, most preschools do not provide more than snacks, and kids need to bring their own lunch. This is not my issue here. What I'm looking for is places that ban foods like peanuts, but more importantly, really watch the kids when they eat, maybe sit down with them until they're done, so that accidents don't happen, and that parents will feel their child is safe. Lastly, I'd like to enroll my child in March of next year, when she will be 28 months. Any recommendation is very much appreciated. anon

    Recommendations received:

  • Duck Pond
  • Skytown Preschool
  • The Snuggery

    Questions about Elementary School


    Peanut allergic son starting public kindergarten

    Oct 2010

    My peanut allergic son will be entering kindergarten at our neighborhood school in 2011. As far as I know, the school does not have any kind of comprehensive nut policy. I am just starting to figure this whole thing out so I thought I would start on BPN. If you have (or had) a peanut-allergic child at a WCCUSD school, can you please share with me what steps you had to take to insure your child's safety? Thanks in advance. Amy


    You need to talk with the office before school starts and make sure you fill out the proper forms so that appropriate medical equipment can be kept in the office. Follow up with the classroom teacher as early as possible to make sure he/she knows about the allergy and can pass on the information to other families. Make sure you check in with both the office and teacher at the beginning of every school year. It might help to offer an appropriate sign to the teacher to post, about whether the allergy is to all nuts and seeds, or just peanuts.

    I would also give your child explicit instructions on what they can and can't eat if others bring in treats and what to do if they have a reaction.

    Keep in mind your child may, at least starting in first grade, eat in a large room with many classes and that children often bring in birthday or other treats into the classroom to share, depending on individual teacher and school policy. WCCUSD teacher


    Starting kindergarten with severe nut allergy

    May 2005

    My child who will be entering kindergarten in the fall, has a severe tree nut allergy. While we have managed just fine in the fabulous cocoon of our very conscientious preschool, I'm wondering if there are parents of children like mine, and seek your advice as to how you cope with exposures. My child has severe reactions if food with nuts touches other food he ingests. We suspect, but aren't really certain if his sensitivity is increasing, so I'm concerned/nervous about him entering grade school, where there is more independence, as well as less monitoring. I make nearly everything he eats, as in nothing is processed except in my home, and he doesn't eat food from others, except when okayed, but still I fret. We do plan to do education within his classroom and school, but I'm looking for some wisdom from experience. Thanks. anon


    I don't have a child with a food allergy but two of my kids have been in school or on teams with kids with very severe peanut/nut allergies. Once the child's parents educated the other parents - and their own child - there were no problems. But it seemed that a big part of it was the child him/herself learning to question what might be in the food they were eating. Of course this was easier with a 12 yr old than a 6 year old. Having teachers reiterate the message in communications from school also helps - without naming the child - especially when it comes to birthday treats. One mom of such a child provided a list to the other parents of what things her child shouldn't have that might not be obvious. My own son began to check the labels for ''made in a factory that processes peanuts'' to protect his teammate. Good luck. Another mom

    Peanut allergy and (public)schools

    Feb 2003

    My second child has a strong peanut allergy. He is also going to kindergarten in the fall. Now I know from the experiences of my older child that there is far far less supervision at school, particularly the lunch break, than there is in a preschool environment. I have been lucky thus far in his preschools that I have had some 'control' -- or at least a say -- in mentioning to every student's parent that this allergy is a serious one for my child. However, I am now realizing this will be nearly impossible when my son goes to kindergarten.

    So -- what have parents of allergic/asthmatic children done to not worry so much when their child is in school? My son knows he has an allergy, knows what peanuts and peanut butter looks like, and we have/will write an information letter to parents. Short of being present for each and every lunch time, what can be done? He has an epi-pen for a serious emergency, but I am betting he can't carry it around with him. I fret that he won't be able to find help in time because there are so many other children around...and not enough adult supervisors.

    If there is a support group for allergic children in our area, I would also like information on any such agency. Thanks, Caroline


    At the public school where I teach peanut allergies are taken very seriously. The epi-pen is kept in the school office, and the secretary and teacher are trained to use it. All parents in my class, and other classes where this is an issue, are made aware of the allergy, and everyone is very conscientious about birthday treats, etc. There is a poster in the office of each child with a severe allergy, with a picture of the child, an explanation of the allergy, and information about precautions, indications of an allergic reaction, and appropriate measures to take (including a 911 call). I urge you to talk with the staff at your child's school to find out what their procudure is for dealing with this issue. Best of luck. Judy
    I have a daughter with a mild peanut allergy, so it is not as scary but here are some things I suggest you do. 1)Meet with the principal and your child's teacher, and bring lots of information about peanut allergies, how serious they are, how children don't grow out of them, etc. 2) Definitely send the letter to the other parents in the class, ask that they not send treats with peanuts to school for birthdays, etc. 3) The Oakland schools have a form that allows you to send prescription medication to school with your child. Get your pediatrician to sign it and send an epi-pen to school -- the ''nurse'' (or whoever functions as one) will have to hold on to it, but as my daughter's allergist says, just sending the epi-pen emphasizes the seriousness of the situation. 4) On Halloween, Valentine's day and other ''party'' days, call the room parent and ask them to tell parents bringing cookies or treats to not bring things with peanuts in them. Better yet, sign up to be the room parent so you can give the message yourself. Still better, be at the party so you can check on what's there. 5) Give the teacher a stash of cookies to give your child in case peanut treats are given out, so your child is not left out and can get some kind of treat. 6) Find out if the teacher uses peanuts or peanut candy as part of a math game, science project or anything else. Offer to research and buy an alternative item. Public school teachers are so harried that offering to help find a solution to the problem will go a long way.

    There is no denying you have to be vigilant, and so will your child. But it can be handled, and I think offering help and generally being involved and around can help a lot. And educate when you get the chance.

    If you haven't already, check out the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, they have information on dealing with schools. Alice


    The ingestion of a small amount of peanut product can cause me to go into severe anaphylactic shock. Back in elementary school ingesting a pinhead amount was a very serious event for me! Now, at the age of 44, I imagine if I ingested a 1/4 tsp. of peanut butter, I could leave this mortal coil quite rapidly if my Epi- Pen didn't work, and/or I was not able to get to the hospital in time. I opened my post with this information so that you know that I can relate to your concern 100%. I would have to say that if you don't feel confident that the teachers at your son's school would be attentive enough to your son's situation, then I would consider choosing another school. But if you haven't done so already, I would give them the chance to rise to the occasion by seeing how they react to you asking them to pay special attention to your son's situation. Perhaps having his meds located in the classroom as well as a second set in the nurse's office, and asking them to set aside some time to make his classmates aware of what a severe food allergy is. An intelligently run school will do this in a way that does not make your son appear to be the odd man out, so to speak. If you find that they do not seem to take you seriously, and they seem uncooperative in any way, then I would look for elsewhere for his education. The one good thing that your son has going for him, that I didn't, is that when I was a child, food allergies were not that well known. I am sure that my parents went through …... when I was a child. Thankfully peanut allergy awareness is much more commonplace now. My son is four and we have not tested him yet, but so far he is not allergic to other legumes like I am. I am hoping that he didn’t' get the peanut gene that both my mother-in-law and I have. If you would like to discuss it further please email me. If you care to respond, I would be interested in knowing how you went about finding out that your son had a peanut allergy? Good luck to you and your son. marianne
    I teach in a public school and have a child in my class with a peanut allergy. The principal and lunchroom staff as well as I have taken an active role to protect him from harm. Basically as far as lunch goes, we make sure to read the menu for the month and whenever peanut butter is on the menu for the day, he gets to eat in the office with a friend who delivers his lunch to him. (not PB!) We also have sent a letter to parents in his class requesting no treats containing peanuts for birthdays, etc. He basically doesn't eat any treats that are suspect. He is the kind of allergy where smelling peanut can cause a reaction. So far it has been ok! Just want you to know it is possible for public school staff to support you! Teacher
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