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Food bans and peanut-free zones: Managing food allergies at school

About 4-6% of children in the U.S. are affected by food allergies – and sometimes these food allergies are life-threatening. As a result, many schools and day cares have made special accommodations to keep kids with food allergies safe. These accommodations include bans on foods children may bring from home and “peanut-free zones” in lunchrooms and classrooms to create a safe environment for severely allergic children.

In a 2009 NPCH Report, we asked parents with children 0-13 years old about food allergies and what their children’s schools or day cares do to accommodate food-allergic kids.

In this Poll, about a quarter of parents were aware of a child with a life-threatening food allergy in their children’s school or day care. About three-quarters of these parents reported that their child’s school or day care provides accommodations for kids with food allergies, such as bans on treats brought from home and separate eating areas for food-allergic kids.

But how do parents without food-allergic kids feel about having to make these accommodations? While nearly half of parents whose children do not have food allergies report no inconvenience about accommodating the needs of food-allergic children, there are still many parents who do find it inconvenient:

  • 47% of parents said it is not at all inconvenient.
  • 27% of parents said it is somewhat inconvenient.
  • 5% of parents said it is very inconvenient.

Since food allergies have been affecting more and more children in recent years, the results of this NPCH Report show a need for greater advocacy efforts and education targeted at parents of children without food allergies. It is also important for schools to bring parents of all children – those with food allergies and those without – together into the conversation about food allergies so all children can learn in a safe environment.