Tag: School Safety

Delicious Triple Berry Popicles

Summer is in full force here in Northern Michigan.  Last week my youngest son and I went raspberry picking at one of our  local organic farms, a  tradition we have shared the last couple of summers.  Needless to say, we have more raspberries than we know what to do with.  This afternoon our youngest begged me to help him make homemade popsicles.  He is my berry boy and eats berries like they are going out of style!

This is quick and easy recipe I hope you will enjoy!  It took us less than 15 minutes from start to placing the popsicle molds in the freezer.  By the way, I use BPA- free popsicle molds which are easy to find these days.  Also, you can use any kind of fresh berries you have on hand.

Ingredients:                                                Preparation Time: 15 minutes                           Freeze Time:   4-6 hours

2/3 cup raw organic cane sugar

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

1 cup strawberries

1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice

Method:

  • Put sugar & 1/3 cup water into a small saucepan.  Over medium heat bring to a boil while continually stirring to make the simple syrup.  Set aside once sugar has dissolved.
  • While simple syrup is cooling, clean and wash berries.
  • Add washed berries to a food processor or blender (your choice.)

 

Squeeze the juice of one lemon, about 1/4 cup lemon juice and pour into food processor and puree mixture until smooth and well combined.

  • Slowly add 1/3 cup simple syrup to berry mixture.  Taste the mixture.  Some people enjoy more tart popsicles and others like theirs’ very sweet.  You can reserve the remaining simple syrup for adult mojitos later!

  • Slowly pour the mixture in your popsicle molds and freeze for approximately 4-6 hours.

  • Now you’ll have delicious and healthy popsicles for the entire family to enjoy!

 

 

 

Back to School With Life Threatening Food Allergies

back-to-school

This is an excellent article in our local paper regarding food allergies and how to manage them in schools locally.  Thank you Jillian Fellows for taking the time to interview me for this piece & Petoskey News Review for covering this important topic and helping to gain awareness locally!

http://www.petoskeynews.com/featured-pnr/back-to-school-with-life-threatening-allergies/article_5c9c4c52-6ffa-56ca-85d6-c842cf1d68fe.html

 

Food Allergy Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents Before School Starts

I have had a few recent requests for my “Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents.”  I recommend you edit this template to meet you child’s needs best.  Also, I recommend sending it to the principal/officer manager for editing and then have the final letter sent home to the parents of the students in your child’s class.  This letter should be from your school principal, not the parent of the food-allergic child.  Also, I don’t think it is a good idea to name your child in the letter.  Even though my oldest son has life-threatening food allergies to DAIRY, EGGS, PEANUTS, & TREE NUTS it wouldn’t be fair to the other students and too hard to enforce a classroom free of all of the above.  Nut oil lingers on surfaces and therefore a nut-free classroom is the best option.  We have taught our boys to be responsible for their food allergies and to always be diligent about proper hand washing, reading labels, etc.

Oh, and keep the letter to one front page…if it is too long and wordy parents won’t read it!  Believe me, some parents never read this unfortunately.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this letter.

~Erika

Letter Template:

August __, 2016

Dear (School Name) Second Grade 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 second grade 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 (Insert Teacher’s Name) 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 second grade 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 _______________________.

Best regards,

Principal ___________________

 

 

New School Year with Food Allergies

Emergency Action Plan

It’s hard to believe we’re in the final weeks of summer here in Northern Michigan and preparing for our children to start back up with school again after Labor Day.  In many parts of the country, kids have already gone back to school.  With these thoughts in mind, I thought it would be helpful for all parents of children with food allergies, to discuss how I prepare my boy’s school (ie. principal, new teacher, administration, and classmates parents) for a safe school environment.  I have to add this is a “general overview” of how I work with the school to ensure a safe and productive school year for my children.  I have refined this process over the last 6 years and this is just a summary.

Since our oldest son is now going into 3rd grade I somewhat have my “Back to School Process” refined.  Our youngest will be entering first grade this fall.  I start this process each spring by scheduling usually a meeting with our school principal to discuss the upcoming school year and how we can work together to ensure the safety of my boys while at school.  I ask for teacher recommendations for the following school year and we discuss what teacher he and I feel may best meet the needs of my boy’s “unofficial 504 plan.”  Since our boys are in a private parochial school, we do not have the legal need to have a 504 plan.  Thankfully our principal was an administrator in the public school system for many years and is knowledgeable about how this process works to ensure the utmost safety of our children during the school day.  At the end of the meeting last spring our principal and I decided to touch base via email in June to discuss teacher options for my first grader since there was going to be a new hire.

Now that we are 3 weeks out from the first day of school I have not only communicated with the principal again but with the office manager.  I have to note, it is crucial to have a wonderful relationship with the staff who run the office and essentially the “nuts and bolts” of the school.  I always approach the school by stating that “we can work together” and put lots of the responsibility on myself and my boys to educate others at the school instead of making threatening demands.  This will get you nowhere and you will not build an alliance with any of the staff if you approach food allergies in a threatening manner!  It’s important to “Kill everyone with kindness.”  I know it’s a stressful situation because your child’s safety is at the hands of someone other than yourself during the day.  You have to put your emotions aside, and work with the school administration from a “Team perspective.”

Ok, I got off on a bit of a tangent…now that I have reached out to the principal again and scheduled another meeting to discuss accommodations for my boy’s classrooms for this school year (ie. nut free classroom, signage, note home to parents discussing there is a child in the class with food allergy, table sanitizing procedures, staff epi-pen training, lunchroom procedure, emergency action plan procedure, etc.), it’s also important to contact your child’s future teachers to schedule an in-person appointment to review everything.  I forgot to add that I also reached out to each teacher about 6 weeks ago to let them know that my child will be in their classroom next fall and they have life-threatening food allergies.  I asked them if they would be available a few weeks before school starts to sit down with me and discuss classroom safety procedures, emergency action plan, etc.

It is crucial to schedule an in-person meeting with the teachers.  Depending on your relationship with administration you may or may not want to have the principal and administrators present at the meetings with the teachers.  Since we are at a very small school, I do not feel the need to have administration present every fall when I meet with the teachers.  However, each school may have a different policy and it’s important to know what approach works best for your individual situation.  I have to note, if there is a new teacher at the school hopefully the principal has discussed food allergies with the teacher prior to your initial meeting.  If not, I may consider having the principal present at this meeting.

In a nutshell, when I meet with each teacher I come extremely prepared with 2 red folders.  Each folder has my child’s name written on the outside of it in bold letters, a picture of my child and the words, “FOOD ALLERGY INFORMATION.”  One folder is for the teacher, another similar folder will be for a “Substitute Teacher.”  In the folder I have a few simple handouts ie. Food allergy checklist, food allergy facts, teacher and family’s responsibilities, safe snack list,  and of course each child’s individual “Food Allergy Action Plan” which is to be posted in a visible spot somewhere in the classroom next to epi-pens.  I also have this posted in the main office and lunchroom.  So to review, I have a total of 6 epi-pens in the school for each child.  Each epi-pen bag also has several Benadryl chewable tablets.

I will also give the teach a gallon sized zip lock bag with non-perishable food for each child in case their lunch should be compromised (ie. milk gets spilled on their packed lunch).  I also offer to be in charge and organize of all classroom parties and discuss with the teacher the possibilities of limiting snacks during parties to fruits and veggies since they are much healthier.  Usually the teachers are completely on board with this since they don’t want students to have too much sugar during the day.  Also, my boy’s friends LOVE my vegan cupcakes and I usually offer to make these for classroom parties.

After meeting with my boy’s teachers I always meet separately with the office staff to review everything, restock epi-pens, hang up emergency action plans, etc.  Also, I have a template letter that I have used in the past that I send to the principal for editing that will get sent to all of the parents of students in my boy’s classrooms prior to the first day of school.  This letter basically explains the severity of food allergies and informs them there is a student in their child’s class with a life-threatening food allergy.  It is one page and talks about the importance of telling your child that food allergies, although very serious, they do not make the child any different from your child with regards to enjoying sports, school, friends, etc.  The kids are no different and should not be treated any different from other kids.

Moreover,  I ALWAYS make it a point to speak to the janitorial staff and discuss proper sanitization of the lunchroom tables.  Our principal does a wonderful job of training all of the staff members and highlighting the importance of sanitization procedures in the lunchroom to prevent cross-contamination.  We are very LUCKY I might add.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an excellent relationship with your administration!

This was a very brief overview of my pre-school preparation to ensure a safe school year.  I hope this is helpful to you and good luck getting ready for a wonderful new year of school for your children!

Teal Pumpkins Are Painted at Our House- Have You Taken The Teal Pumpkin Project Pledge?

Teal Pumpkins Painted

My boys painted their Teal Pumpkins for the FARE’S Teal Pumpkin Project to raise awareness for food allergies on Halloween.  This national campaign will ensure that every child has a safe Halloween.  Have you taken the Pledge?  Please visit FARE’s website below and join the thousands who have already taken the Pledge.

http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project

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 ____________________