Category: School Resources

Helpful school resources for advocacy, school policy, safety, parents, teachers, allergy students, snack lists, parties, field trips,etc.

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

FIELD TRIPS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES

skulbus

My boys have now been back in school this fall for about 4 weeks and today is their first field trip to the high school football field for a Homecoming Pep Rally.  Looking back a few years when my oldest son was in kindergarten, I remember feeling quite a bit of anxiety leading up to his school field trips.  Its silly to think about the stress these school functions caused me but I’m sure most parents of kids with food allergies can relate in one way or another to my elevated anxiety levels on the subject. Even though I chaperoned almost all of the field trips,  I think most of my stress came from thoughts about my son riding on the bus and the potential of food that had been left on the bus prior to him riding it, and/or allergen oils on the bus seats.  Additionally, the is an added element of stress knowing that your child may not be as close to he hospital in case there is an allergic reaction.

In preparing my children for today’s school outing I referenced a very helpful checklist provided by FARE at www.foodallergy.org.  I have included this helpful checklist in the “Food Allergy Folder” I prepare for each of my children’s teachers at the beginning of each school year.  It’s a wonderful reference guide and I hope you will find it helpful to ease your mind while your children are safe and enjoying their school field trips.  ~Erika

Field Trip Tips

For Parents

  • Keep yourself up-to-date on upcoming special events in your child’s school. The more time you have to plan ahead, the better.
  • Remember that you and your child’s teacher need to work together as a team to keep your child safe.
  • Role-play with your child and practice what your child should do if a reaction is occurring.
  • Often times children are reluctant to mention that they’re having symptoms of an allergic reaction for fear of creating a scene. Teach your child to be persistent. In the event of a reaction, rapid treatment is essential.
  • After the event, briefly call or meet with your child’s teacher to discuss what went well and what, if anything, should be changed in the future. Be sure to give praise for a job well done; a thank-you note reinforces the idea of teamwork and builds a positive atmosphere.

For Educators

  • Update the food-allergic student’s Food Allergy Action Plan. Ask the parents to review the plan you have on file and note any updated information. Also ask parents to check the expiration dates on any medications.
  • Review the Food Allergy Action Plan with regard to the upcoming event. Find out where the nearest hospital is and discuss how a student would be transported there in case of an emergency.
  • Brief the staff and chaperones that will be supervising students during the event or trip. Identify the food-allergic student, discuss what foods must be avoided, explain the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and review the Food Allergy Action Plan. Designate a staff member to check the safety of any food served to that student.
  • The day of the event or trip, carry the food-allergic student’s medications wherever the student goes. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, known as “anaphylaxis,” speedy access to medications can be the difference between life and death. Keep all staff and chaperones informed about who will be carrying the student’s medications.
  • Carry a cell phone to place emergency calls, if necessary. Make certain all staff and chaperones know where the phone will be kept.
  • Take all complaints seriously. If a food-allergic student notifies the staff that he or she is not feeling well, compare the symptoms with those listed on that student’s Food Allergy Action Plan. If the student is having an allergic reaction, activate emergency procedures immediately. Remember, if epinephrine is administered, but not needed, the student may experience increased heart rate and nervousness. If epinephrine is needed, but not administered, the student may experience a severe or fatal allergic reaction.

Sample School Letter Sent Home Regarding Safety & Food Allergies in Classroom

I apologize for getting this letter out after the start of the school year.  Below is a sample template of a letter that should be sent home by the principal prior to the start of every school year.  This letter should be mailed to the parents of classmates with food allergies as a reminder of the severity of food allergies.  Please note this classroom below is completely “Nut Free.” 

August ____, 2015

Dear “School Name” Kindergarten Parents,

Your child has a classmate this year that has life-threatening anaphylactic food allergies to: all dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs. We want to inform you a little about food allergies to ensure a safe and healthy school year for everyone.

Over 14 million Americans have food allergies which affects 1 in every 13 children (under age 18) or roughly 2 students in every U.S. classroom! Allergic reactions can be life-threatening, and in rare cases deadly. While emergency treatment is available for allergic reactions, there is no cure yet. The only treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance of allergens. Sometimes a small amount of allergen can cause a deadly reaction.

Benadryl and an Epi-Pen will be kept in the kindergarten classroom for immediate access as well as the school office if your child’s classmate should have an allergic reaction.

Please do not send any peanuts or tree nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, etc.), peanut butter or foods containing peanut/tree nuts or peanut butter to be eaten as snacks or for lunch in the classroom. Healthy alternatives are: Soynut butter, Sun Butter, or Biscotti spread. Additionally, please check all food labels for the listing of peanuts or various tree nuts, especially on crackers, cookies, and dessert treats.

I would ask if you’re bringing in food for a party or special event that might not be allergen-free, please let your child’s teacher know in advance so that a safe alternative option can be provided for the classmate with food allergies. (In particular, because homemade baked goods are so likely to contain traces of allergens from previous baking, they’re not safe options for children with food allergies even if they don’t contain ingredients with milk, nuts, and eggs.)

I would also ask that you discuss food allergies with your child. Please ask them not to share or trade food with any of their kindergarten classmates during lunch time. Please also assure your child that children with food allergies are no different than other children. They can do everything anyone else can.

Finally, if your child eats foods containing dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs for breakfast, please ask them to wash their hands and brush their teeth before coming to school.

Thank you in advance for your kindness and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at  XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Best regards,

Principal ____________________

“Safe” School Snack List

snacks

This week I seem to be posting a lot of  lists.  In the world of food allergies, lists are extremely important to have around as references.  In addition to the “Safe Halloween Candy” list I posted yesterday, I thought it may be helpful to post my comprehensive “Safe School Snack List.”  Parents and teachers alike constantly ask me for healthy safe snacks in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Labels must be read every time since manufacturing practices and ingredients can change at any time. Please check for dairy, eggs, peanuts & tree nuts (butter, cheese, yogurt, milk, cream and many times labeled as whey/casein, albumen, and lactic acid starter culture). Also, see any allergen warning for “may contain” or “made on/processed on the same equipment as” or “made in the same facility as…”

Suggested Safe Snacks:

  • Fruits & Vegetables are highly encouraged (no cream dips/peanut butter)
    • Also, Sunmaid & Meijer Brand Raisins & Most apple sauce containers
  • Meijer Brand Naturals Baked Sea Salt natural pita crackers;
  • Silk Soy Yogurt (blueberry & strawberry)—ALWAYS read this label as several Silk Soy Yogurt flavors are processed on the same equipment as almonds!
  • Organic Ville Non Dairy Ranch Organic Dressing
  • Whole Soy & Co. Soy Yogurt
  • Follow Your Heart Vegan Cream Cheese
  • Go Veggie Classic Plain Cream Cheese Alternative (This is our favorite brand!)
  • SO Delicious Dairy Free CocoWhip Coconut Whipped Topping
  • Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers or Spartan Brand Honey Graham Crackers
  • Nabisco Whole Grain Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco Low Sodium Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco “Original” Wheat Thins (Whole Grain) Crackers
  • Triscuit Original Whole Grain Wheat Crackers
  • Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheat, Crispy Wheat, Organic Satines & Organic Stoneground Wheat Crackers
  • Glutino Brand Pretzels
  • Keebler CLUB crackers
  • Ritz Crackers (no sandwiches)
  • Savoritz Original Woven Wheats (Aldi’s Brand)
  • Savoritz Original Clubhouse Crakers (Aldi’s Brand)
  • Live G Free Gluten Free Mini Twists & Straight Pretzels (Aldi’s Brand)
  • Southern Grove Banana Chips (Aldi’s Brand)
  • Live G Free Cocoa Loco, Mixed Berry & Caramel Apple Baked Chewy Bars (Aldi’s Brand)
  • Enjoy Life Choco Loco, Mixed Berry & Caramel Apple Baked Chewy Bars
  • Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips and Multi Grain Pita Chips (not parmesan herb)
  • Sabre Original Hummus, Tribe Organic Roasted Garlic Hummus and Tribe Classic Hummus (Glen’s)
  • Whole Grain Cheerios (not honey nut)
  • Rice Chex
  • I.M. Healthy Original Creamy Soynut Butter (peanut free) & Safe 4School WOW Butter
  • Aunt Millie’s 100% Whole Wheat or Whole Grain “Hearth” Hamburger buns & Thomas 100% Whole Wheat Mini Bagels
  • Koepplinger’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Lotus Biscoff Spread Smooth and Crunchy
  • Lundberg Brown Rive Organic Rice Cakes
  • Most brands of Tortilla Chips- Always check the labels as many contain “Milk”
  • Most brands of salsa
  • Ocean Spray Berries & Cherries Naturally Flavored Snacks

 Common UNSAFE FOODS (please avoid):

  • All granola bars
  • Almost all English Muffin Brands contain MILK- Aunt Millies seems to be milk free
  • All Goldfish (Pepperidge Farms)
  • All Annie’s Bunnie Crackers
  • Veggie Shreds Soy Cheese Products ALL HAVE MILK CASEIN
  • Cheez-Its Crackers
  • Yogurt tubes, cups or Yo-gos
  • Cheese/String Cheese
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Veggie Straws (may contain milk) & my oldest son started to have a reaction from cross-contamination last spring!
  • Hostess Snacks and most processed cookies/sweet snacks

With schools back in sessions parents of food allergic children are more at ease since Michigan Law requiring schools to stock Epi-Pens has been implemented throughout the state

With schools back in sessions parents of food allergic children are more at ease since Michigan Law requiring schools to stock Epi-Pens has been implemented throughout the state