From my recent talks with the director and assistant director at Nutrition Services, I have even made more contacts with a couple of other departments that can help with establishing food allergy protocol and standardization throughout FWISD. YAY!
Those who know me best know the biggest hurdle we've faced with the transition to kindergarten has been food allergy management for Anna. Oh, I could go on and on -- and I probably will at some point -- about the surprises I encountered, i.e. the lack of pre-existing food allergy protocol at one of the finest elementary schools in the state.
But that's not the point of this post. It is the pressing matter at hand, and I need your help.
At the beginning of this school year, I met with a dietician about Anna's anaphylactic food allergy to sesame. She very graciously and very thoroughly helped me scour through the ENTIRE lunch menu for any sesame ingredients. As you likely know (or don't know), sesame can be a tricky ingredient as it is part of bread crumbs, tahini, hummus, sauces, granola, trail mixes, packaged rices, and dressings. Upon inspection of the current menu, we discovered the three Asian dishes served on three Thursdays of the month (chicken teriyaki, beef and rice, and orange chicken) contained a sauce made with sesame oil.
Here's the deal: Anna's allergy to sesame is severe, scoring a 4 out of 6, and is deemed bi-phasic anaphylactic, meaning she will have an immediate anaphylactic allergic reaction upon ingesting the sesame and will then again have a second anaphylactic reaction 3-4 hours after the initial encounter with the allergen. This type of reaction makes her at greater risk for death. Certainly, we take her food allergy very seriously. So you can see the alarm and concern we felt when we realized her allergen was being served three times per month to elementary students who have zero idea about clean hands and friends with food allergies. Anna Zane herself is cognizant of her food allergy, but even at five and six years old cannot be expected to posses the discernment and maturity to fully protect herself from exposure at school.
As she began kindergarten this year, we not only had to tackle the normal transitions of starting elementary school, but also had to navigate managing a food allergy at school. We met with the school nurse multiple times; her teacher; and the principal.
The most challenging aspect of managing Anna Zane's safety is the presence of sesame, her allergen, being served in the cafeteria three times per month. As you can quickly deduce, this raises her risk of exposure significantly. After realizing FWISD would not remove the sauce for the 2016 - 2017 school year, we had to make a plan to keep Anna Zane safe at school. These steps are:
- I take off from work most Thursdays to remove Anna Zane from the school during her lunch time. We travel to a nearby restaurant (which is challenging for a 10:30 lunch time) or eat a picnic in the park if weather permits.
- On days I cannot take off from work, her teacher makes sure that Anna Zane does not sit by anyone who purchases a lunch from the cafeteria and that she sits on the end of the table away from a walking path so that no lunch could accidentally spill on her. This, of course, puts her teacher in a tough spot because she now becomes patrol for Anna Zane's safety, adding extra work for her that should not be hers.
Thus, I reached out to the director of nutrition services, making two requests:
- That this sesame sauce used in these three Asian dishes be completely removed from the menu and replaced with an Asian sauce that does not contain sesame in any form. There are numerous sesame-free options.
- That the nutrition services department be vigilant in not introducing anymore sesame-laden foods into the menu.
Although studies are just emerging about sesame allergies in this country, they are finding that sesame food allergies produce some of the most severe reactions and do not appear to be an allergy that one outgrows. It is also one of the fastest growing food allergy diagnoses in this country, ranking in the top 10 most common. However, the FDA only requires notification of allergens for the top 8.
Here are some quick reads about this allergy:
ca/en/Articles/Food-allergies/ intolerances/Facts-on-sesame- allergy.aspx
So, will you say it with me: No more sesame in the cafeteria? If you feel so inclined, would you consider emailing the director of the FWISD nutrition services (http://www.fwisd.org/domain/162) asking him to replace the sesame sauce with a sesame-free option for the 2017 - 2018 school year?
Anna Zane thanks you! (Oh, and I REALLY do too.)