School nutrition programs have the tough job of getting healthy, tasty meals to children at an affordable cost. Although many schools are focused on providing nutritious meals for their students, they should also be aware that childhood food allergies have increased in recent years and plan accordingly. Here are four things that all schools should make sure to incorporate when planning meals for kids with allergies.
1. Safety First
Food allergies are important to track and to document. Be sure to have parents provide information on allergies at the beginning of the year and have teachers, administrators, and nutrition staff be made aware. Allergy information should be kept by the school nurse and shared with auxiliary staff in sports and transportation as well. Schools should give children with allergies the same kind of consideration that they give children with disabilities. They should track and document the allergy throughout the school year and collaborate with parents
2. Working Around Food Allergies
If a school has a large population with food allergies, those food items can be avoided in meal planning. An alternative to completely giving up on foods that cause allergic reactions is to offer more choices at mealtimes rather than prepackaged meals. Students with allergies won't be singled out and can simply avoid the foods that they cannot eat. This is a good alternative for children that are old enough to monitor their own food allergies.
3. Take Allergy Documentation at Face Value
School nutrition programs should never downplay an allergy and should always follow the protocol that comes down from family, doctors, or administrators. It is important that staff understand that following menu modifications and safe kitchen practices can save a life. The school is responsible for any additional costs from special meal planning due to allergies and the expense should be incorporated into the budget. Nutrition staff should be trained to accommodate menu changes for students with allergies.
4. Back-up Emergency Plan
Accidents happen. If a child does come in contact with a food that they are allergic to, your school staff members need to be able to act quickly with a game plan already in place. Make sure you know which children have allergies and what medication or treatment will need to be administered. The school nurse can keep medications and epinephrine shots in case these are needed.
Planning mealtimes around allergies might pose some logistical problems, but this must be taken seriously in a school environment. When it comes to school nutrition, safety and individual student accommodations are just as important as food preparation. For more information about preparing nutritious meals for your students, contact a company like New Horizon Foods of Colorado.