Food Allergy Awareness Week occurs from May 12th – 18th this year; school foodservice employees will be undertaking training and planning activities so as to keep their students with food allergies safe. In our last post, we helped you navigate school lunch with food allergies. We covered the most common allergens, discussed the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance, and shed light on USDA regulations for feeding students who have food allergies.
Now, let’s take a deeper dive into ensuring your lunchroom, your school and your district are compliant with these regulations. What steps should you take and what should you implement to ensure the safety of your students?
Food Allergy Regulations: Where to Begin
With food allergies and intolerances on the rise, a school system needs to be smart about its menus and recipes, offering allergen-free foods to their students. We first suggest reading (and bookmarking) the USDA document, Accommodating Children with Disabilities in the School Meal Programs, which includes information about:
· Requirements to modify policies, practices and procedures to accommodate children with food allergies
· Procedural safeguards for modification requests, and making modifications to program meals or service area
· Reimbursement for modified meals
· Accommodating food preferences for students without food allergies
· Resources schools can use to build a safe environment for children with food allergies
The document is a resource for helping you to navigate how to accommodate the needs of students who have food allergies. Once a disability has been determined (once a medical statement has been provided by the family of the child with the food allergy), schools are required to modify the food served in order to prevent discrimination.
Training for your employees is necessary so that all staff are aware how to keep allergens – and trace allergens – out of the food, out of the kitchen and out of the lunchroom or classroom. They should receive regular training on reading food labels as well, so as to know whether an allergen is lurking in a product under an unfamiliar ingredient name. Note that food modifications can come in the form of substituting an alternate vegetable or fruit, altering the texture of a food, or altering the portion size of the food in question.
Digitize Your Menus to Help Prevent Allergy Incidents
Your team works hard to prevent allergy incidents from occurring. Perhaps you are a peanut-free school, or you offer fluid milk substitutions. But there is a proactive way to help you safeguard against any allergic reactions among your students, and that is by getting your menus and recipes online and in a database that you can manipulate to view by ingredient, by food label, whether a recipe contains a common allergen, substitute recipes to make in place of an allergen-containing entree, etc. You can then update your menus, recipes and ingredients in real time. This isn’t something that you can do with your paper, ketchup-splattered recipe cards!
Don’t leave a student’s health to chance. Digitizing your menus and recipes helps ensure the safety of everyone in the school who partakes in School Breakfast, School Lunch or the Smart Snacks Program. Using school foodservice software is essential to managing and maintaining a safe and healthy space for your students who have food allergies. When your menus and recipes are online, you also provide access and peace of mind for not only your students, but for parents, care givers, school nurses and school staff.
This is where My K12 Resource can help! With our Registered Dietitians on staff, we can help you source the best menu and nutrient software for your school and district. Our team of special diet management experts creates approved menus, and we create, migrate or upgrade your menu and recipe database for you. We also educate your foodservice workers about food to ensure the safety of all students in the lunchroom! Reach out to us to discuss proactively preventing allergy incidents in your school.
Let's chat! Reach out and we can set up a time to discuss how we can assist you.