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School bans just about every food there is to 'protect' kids with allergies

Gemma Hartley is a freelance writer with a BA in writing from The University of Nevada, Reno. She lives in Reno with her husband, three young kids, an awesome dog and a terrible cat.

School's bizarre food ban leaves parents with almost no options for lunchtime

A school in Melbourne, Australia, has taken lunchbox policing to a whole new level, asking parents to not pack watermelon, strawberries and bananas in their kids’ lunchboxes. This comes on top of a list that already includes avoiding soy, wheat, eggs, dairy, seafood and nuts. Which leaves parents wondering, what can you pack for lunch?

The new guidelines for packed lunches put a severe strain on parents trying to pack a nutritious lunch for their student while avoiding the daunting list of potential allergen foods. The alarming rise in food allergies among kids was cited as reason for the new measures, but there is worry that the new lunchbox rules are overkill.

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Point Cook College, which enrolls children from prep to grade nine, is concerned with taking preemptive steps to prevent anaphylactic shock in students suffering from food allergies. Principal Frank Vetere stands behind the extreme measures, which they have set in place to protect the 20 students with varying allergies in the school.

The problem of food-related allergies has expanded in recent years. However, only 1.3 percent of children ages 3 to 18 are affected by food-related allergies.

So is this carpet ban on such a wide variety of foods really the best proactive solution? Perhaps not. Policing every lunchbox in large schools becomes nearly impossible, and allergies to fruit are so uncommon that the ban is overkill. Parents are already frustrated with the daily struggle of crafting a balanced lunch to send to school with their kids, and these types of restrictions make it nearly impossible to do so. Wheat allergies take out sandwiches; dairy allergies take out cheese, yogurt and milk; and now a variety of fresh fruit is out?

While it is important to ensure that children with food allergies are properly cared for in the school setting, there are less-extreme ways to reduce the risk of anaphylactic shock than banning all allergen-containing foods for kids across the board. Food Allergy Research & Education emphasizes that the responsibility does not solely lie with the school but also with parents and students who deal directly with these food allergies.

Teaching allergic children to avoid food-sharing and eating only what is packed for them is a large part of prevention and is far more effective than policing every lunchbox in the school.

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