You know the statistics: today, 1 in 16 kids — an average of two in every classroom — is coping with a food allergy and many are also coping with other food restrictions due to chronic illnesses like celiac disease.
Those restrictions can make students feel isolated during meals and snack time, but one South Carolina school is making inroads with an innovative program.
All students at Monarch Elementary School in Simpsonville are invited to attend the Allergy Breakfast Club (ABC) each Monday morning before classes. The breakfast foods offered are safe for a wide variety of food allergies and restrictions.
Dana and Park Johnston worked with the school to establish the program after their daughter had been diagnosed with celiac disease.
Said Ms Johnston:
It’s just a really fun place where kids can see they’re not alone in this journey, and there are other people struggling, but coming together makes the struggle a lot easier.
You don’t really think about it, but class parties are centered on food, holiday parties, anything from traveling to just going to your favorite local restaurants. All of that changes for kids with allergies.
This is a place where they can come together and talk about the struggles and help each other grow.
“It’s exciting because a lot of times if you have a food allergy, it feels like there’s so many things you cannot do. This club has given the students the opportunities to see there are new foods to try,” said Mark Loach, Principal of Monarch Elementary School.
At the meetings, kids are introduced to new foods and participate in activities.
“Whatever allergy you have is not stopping you from doing anything,” said 5th grader Ava McManus, who has celiac disease and feels supported by the club.
The club is open to all students with an interest including those that want to support their friends and siblings.
Here is a WYFF News 4 report about the Allergy Breakfast Club: