In order to provide an optimal learning environment, Friends School Mullica Hill seeks to promote the health and wellness of our students and faculty, and to provide a healthful school environment. To achieve this goal, the cooperative efforts of the school staff, students and parents are required by recognizing that the quality of student learning is directly related to their physical and emotional health.
This policy was adopted with the Quaker testimonies of equality, community and integrity in mind. It promotes respect and tolerance toward students with food allergies balanced with the opportunity for students without food allergies to have nut products at designated times.
Important Information About Food Allergies
In almost every grade we have students with serious, life-threatening food allergies. Researchers cannot identify why food allergies are on the rise in the United States, and at this time there is no cure or immunization on the horizon. This concern will remain for Friends School and every other school in the country. Understanding food allergies is a constantly evolving process. The eight most common food allergens are tree nuts, peanuts, milk, soy, shellfish, eggs, wheat and fish.
One of the most complex and dangerous aspects of food allergies is “cross contamination.” Cross contamination occurs when a food that does not itself contain any allergens is tainted with an allergen during food preparation, cooking, storage, or serving. It can occur at home, in restaurants or in manufacturing facilities.
Cross contamination is an extremely important food safety concern for people with allergies because many allergies have small threshold levels, meaning they require only a tiny amount of an allergen to trigger an allergic reaction. The amount of allergen protein that can be transmitted to an otherwise safe food through cross-contamination is often beyond this level.
Example of Cross Contamination:
IN THE HOME:
Cookie: If a cookie is baked on a cookie sheet that has not been thoroughly sanitized, it could have residual protein from a batch of peanut butter or tree nut cookies that were baked on the same tray the day before.
IN A MANUFACTURING FACILITY:
Cookie: A butter cookie has been processed on equipment shared with peanut butter cookies.
IN A RESTAURANT:
Three major vectors for cross contamination in restaurants are frying oil, communal grills and frying pans. In addition, knives, cutting boards, spoons and other utensils that are used to cut or transfer multiple foods can be contaminated.
IN A CLASSROOM:
Some foods can leave oils or protein on crayons, toys, tables and other surfaces. Hands are also a potential vector for cross contamination.
To maintain safety and inclusion for all students, the following procedures have been set in place.
• Students are not to share food.
• In a class that has student allergies, any use of food for educational purposes is to be announced in writing prior to the lesson. A note informing the parents (of the student(s) with allergies) is available to teachers, and has room to provide the specific brand or ingredients of food being used.
Snack should be sent in its original packaging when possible. We ask parents to check labels of packaged foods sent in as snacks to make sure that foods do not contain any type of nut or have been processed in a facility that processes nuts. We also provide parents with a website that can be used as a back-up to check snack ingredients:
Students are requested to provide a cloth dishtowel to cover their desk during snack and lunch times. This will be sent home daily to be washed and replaced when needed. This reduces the amount of time that teachers spend wiping down and sanitizing the tables, reduces the interruption of quality learning time since students may remain in their assigned seats, and reduces the number of times students with food allergies are exposed to allergens.
Students are able to bring other foods for lunch because the assigned lunch duty teacher (school nurse or homeroom teacher) can inspect lunches and table distribution of students can be handled accordingly. Students are requested to provide a cloth dishtowel to cover their desk during lunch (and snack). During each lunch room period, there will be an area in the room, considered a nut-free zone, where absolutely no nut products are allowed. In addition, all of the tables are wiped down and sanitized after all lunches in order to reduce the effects of possible cross contamination within the classroom. Students are instructed to wash their hands and get a drink after consuming food allergens.
CELEBRATIONS AND HOLIDAYS
We have a wonderfully diverse student body throughout the school that includes students with life-threatening allergies, cultural food preferences and dietary restrictions. Therefore, no outside food can be brought into the classrooms for celebrations including birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. Rather, each teacher should share with parents the specific plans for how holidays will be celebrated as the time approaches. For birthdays, each classroom may have a slightly different celebration plan ensuring that the birthday child is celebrated in a special way.
As always, celebrations should draw on our Quaker values which include simplicity and community. The scheduling of birthday and holiday celebrations is to be arranged with the homeroom teacher.
Revised July 2014