5 Ways to Manage Food Allergies at Eventsbeing there // on Tuesday April 12, 2016
Snack time is a fun part of Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and other church activities, but peanut butter, milk and other seemingly innocent eats can make snacking scary for kids with food allergies. One out of every 13 children has a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), so it’s especially important to be mindful of what kids sip and munch on.
Here’s the good news: Being aware of food allergies—and how to act in emergency situations—makes it much easier to protect participants. These considerations will help ensure a safe, allergy-friendly environment for everyone:
- Create an action plan. Make sure your organization has legally compliant policies and procedures in place that provide direction on preventing and responding to allergic reactions. Not sure where to start? The National School Board Association has a comprehensive policy guide that also applies to church activities.
- Collect essential information. Ask parents to complete health and emergency contact forms so you can identify which participants have a food-allergy history. From there, you’ll want to know:
- Trigger foods
- Typical reactions
- Treatments and medications
- Healthcare providers’ contact info
- Train staff and volunteers. Make sure your team is fully aware of policies, procedures, allergic reaction warning signs and response strategies.
- Serve safe snacks. Because of the potential for allergies, avoid peanuts, tree nuts, dairy products and other foods that are most associated with allergic reactions in children. View a full list from FARE. And since cross-contact (scraping peanut butter off a knife and using that same knife to spread jelly on another sandwich, for instance) can create problems, here’s FARE’S fact sheet on how to avoid it.
- Keep tabs on medication. Some kids might need over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines to relieve mild reactions and EpiPens for severe reactions. You’ll want all medications to be easily accessible. Review state laws for specifics on storage, access and administration of medication.
Keeping these precautions in mind will go a long way in making snack time delicious, not dangerous.