Dealing with Food Allergies at School
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Dealing with Food Allergies at School
Questions about Preschool
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
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.
I saw your post on Berkeley Parents Network and wanted to
respond. For any child with severe food allergies, I highly
The Berkeley School
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
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
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
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.
I'll second the recommendation that you look at
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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...
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''
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.
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
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.
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.
Though not in your preferred area, the The Snuggery
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
I'm not sure if they have any openings coming up, but call
Nancy Togami, director, at 510-548-9121.
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.''
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
Aquatic Park School
Cedar Creek Montessori
Montessori Family School
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 ...
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.
Questions about Elementary School
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Ā¬Ö... 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 didnĀ¬ít' 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.
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!
this page was last updated: Apr 5, 2011
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