Dear Fellow Parent,
I understand your child will have to forgo peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at school in order to protect children with food allergies like mine. I realize this accommodation may seem extreme to you, especially since your child refuses to eat anything else but PB&J. Though I am sympathetic and can offer you a strategy for dealing with this, let me first explain why the school has adopted this rule.
It is estimated estimated that over 5.2 million children aged 18 years and under have some kind of food allergy1 — an average of two in every classroom — and that number is rising. Though there are many theories as to why this is, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that allergic reactions can range anywhere from mild – with symptoms like redness and itchiness – to anaphylaxis, a life threatening reaction that can include vomiting, difficulty breathing, and in extreme cases, death. To complicate matters, no one can predict with 100% certainty which children are at risk for anaphylaxis, and worse, a child doesn’t need to eat a food they are allergic to to have an anaphylactic reaction; contact with another child or an item that has been exposed to the allergen can sometimes be enough to trigger onset. Because of this, my child carries an epinephrine auto-injector — the treatment of choice if the unthinkable should happen — and why foods containing peanuts are prohibited from our children’s classroom.
Some think that children with food allergies should go to private school or be home schooled so as not to inconvenience the parents of “normal” children, but this is discriminatory thinking of days gone by. Thanks to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, my child has the right to be accommodated any place that receives federal assistance, and that includes our school.2
Let me say thanks in advance for your understanding and compliance with the peanut butter ban as I fully understand that your family is making an accommodation to ensure the safety of mine. In return, I offer the following advice to help you transition your child from peanut butter to an alternative that is safe, more healthful, and acceptable to our school’s policy.
Peanut butter derives much of its taste from the roasting process. There are a number of other spreads available at the supermarket that use a similar roasting process and taste remarkably similar to peanut butter. My child likes sunflower seed butter, but soy nut butter is another alternative.
Now similar does not mean exactly like, so you’ll need to ease your child into a peanut butter alternative behind the scenes so they won’t taste the difference. Here’s the secret: when your child has lunch at home, simply mix 3/4 peanut butter with 1/4 peanut butter alternative, and on successive days change the proportion to more and more of the alternative spread. In no time your child will be enjoying PBA&J (peanut butter alternative and jelly) sandwiches, and we’ll all breathe easier knowing our children are safe, secure and happy.
Thanks again and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
PS: SnackSafely.com offers a huge list of commonly available snacks, all of which are free of peanuts and tree nuts and many that are free of the Top 8 allergens to make complying easy.
- Your rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act — US Department of Health and Human Services
- Facts and Statistics — Food Allergy Research and Education