Welcome to the NEW food allergy advice column, Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies with PTO Mom! Candy Richards shares some tips on how to make sure your child is safe in school as enrollments for the next school year are in full swing.

It’s that time of year again! It’s time to call your school to schedule a meeting to discuss the accommodations for your child with food allergies.

You should discuss with the school nurse what options you have regarding different food allergy management plans.

Here are a few options:

Food Allergy Medical Management Plan

(This plan should be part of the Individualized HealthCare Plan (IHP) and Emergency Care Plan (ECP)) developed by a student’s doctor and family. It outlines the proper procedures and should be signed by the student’s allergist, family doctor or certified registered nurse. This plan should include some information such as the student’s date of food allergy diagnosis, specific medical orders and emergency contact information.


Emergency Care Plan (ECP) (This plan is based on the information provided in the student’s Individualized Health Care Plan (IHP) and describes how to recognize a food allergy.

-usually coordinated byt the school nurse and should be distributed to all school staff who have responsibility for the student.


Individualized Health Care Plan (IHP) (This plan uses the process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation to determine a plan of action for the student with food allergies)

-provides written directions for school health personnel to follow in meeting the individual student’s healthcare needs. While parental/guardian involvement is not required, I recommend you are involved as much as you feel necessary.


504 Service Agreement  (This plan outlines accommodations, educational aids, and services a student with food allergies may need in order to have equal access to educational opportunities as students without food allergies.)

– a plan of services developed under

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to protect those with “disabilities” from discrimination. These plans can be used when schools are receiving federal funding.


If you do not know where to start, contact you child’s school now to get the process going for next school year. Good luck!


Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*


Unfortunately, children who have food allergies are often excluded from school events that have to do with food. Sometimes the teachers don’t think to ask if the food is safe for everyone in the classroom while planning the event or the PTO/PTA don’t think to accomodate everyone.

This tends to happen a lot and unfortunately, most of the time, we cant do anything about it.

Q: “When my son started 1 st grade, he was constantly coming home crying because he was left out of a classmates birthday party celebration with the class. He brought in cookies that wasn’t safe for my son. I felt so bad listening to him tell me about how everyone ate them in front of him and he just sat there with his hands in his pockets because the teacher told him to do that for his safety. I wanted to scream. How do you help your child feel included in things you have no control over?” Jamie T.

A: I completely understand how you and your child may feel right now. Have you tried to talk with your child’s teacher about a “safe snack bag” to be kept in the classroom for situations such as this one? I would try that first. Explain to the teacher that you do not want your child excluded from the celebration. Provide a travel size package of “wet one” wipes to clean your child’s area after the celebration is over so he doesn’t come in contact with any of the allergens. Making the child put his hands in his pocket while the celebration is going on may calm the teacher’s nerves but it will make the child feel as though they are being punished for having a condition they cannot control.


Q: “My daughter is allergic to peanuts, strawberries and milk. To ask for a nut-free classroom would be pointless,a s she has multiple food allergies. How do I make sure she is not excluded from school events when food is involved when the food is constantly entering the classroom?Matthew M.

A: In situations where a child has multiple food allergies, I always suggest if it is possible to make the classroom food-free. Ask if during celebrations, they can encourage non-food related activities and items (ex: stickers, face paintings, crayons, etc). If it is possible to make the classroom food-free that would have the best outcome. If that is not an option, or the school doesn’t want to do that route, try to be as involved in the classroom events as possible. Volunteer to be “classroom dad” and volunteer during occasions when you know that there will be a celebration (ex: Halloween, Valentine’s day, etc). I also advise that you provide the classroom with some safe snacks to keep in the teachers desk in the event that someone brings something in that is not safe for your daughter.


Q: My son was recently excluded from a school event for “his own safety”. They had a birthday celebration in the classroom with cupcakes. He is allergic to milk, eggs and wheat. Because of these being in the cupcakes, and him being in contact with them, the teacher sent him to the office to give the secretary some papers. (This was merely an excuse to get him out of the classroom.) The teacher later told me why he did that. What should I do so my son doesn’t feel left out?- Kathy J.

A: When teachers purposely exclude a child for “his own safety” is not only completely wrong but it hurts the child more than they realize. Unfortunately, this will happen from time to time because some people just don’t understand how to work with the condition instead of against it. I would definitely talk to the teacher, one on one, and discuss your concerns with how he handled the situation so it doesn’t keep happening. Put a plan in place that you both can work with so your child can be in the classroom during these special occasions. Try to give as many suggestions to the teacher as possible to help the teacher understand the allergy and how to handle situations like this. Good Luck!


Q: “My daughter is in class with a boy, who she loves dearly, that has nut allergies. She doesn’t have any food allergies herself. I am a member of the PTA and help plan a lot of the school events. This boy’s mother is very adamant about food allergies so I want to make sure that I don’t hear her wrath, lol.  How do I make sure that he is included in the activities while also not posing a threat to his health?” Anonymous

A: You sound like you are speaking about my son and me, lol. Let me first say that I am extremely touched that you would even try to understand and go out of your way to help this boy feel included because you, yourself, are not a food allergy parent. It is admirable of you to try to educate yourself on this, so I thank you on behalf of all of us food allergies parents. As for making sure he is included, I would first develop a list of “safe” snacks, candies and foods that are 100% safe for nut allergy sufferers. If you do not know where to start, ask his mother. I am sure she would be touched to know you care enough to ask and will be willing to help so her child is safe. Once you have a list of safe foods, try to provide everyone that is involved in the planning of PTA events with a copy. This will help with the communication on the proper foods. When planning events, do your best to plan non-food related activities. This will keep everyone’s mind at ease. Remember though, some non-food items contain nuts (ex: lotions, soaps, bird seed, etc) so please always check ingredients.


The question below is quite offensive but I felt it needed to be added to see how some parents react to the accommodations of children with food allergies to keep them from being excluded.

Q: “Please do not be offended at my next statement but why should I go out of my way to provide accommodations to a child with food allergies? I understand it is serious but if we have to accommodate for them then they are getting special treatment. Shouldn’t they just deal with it and work around it? I don’t mean to be hostile but I don’t feel like I should have to go out of my way and go to a thousand stores to find “safe” foods when the parents of the food allergy kid can provide them for their child and I can buy what I want to for the classroom party.” – Debbie K.

A: I understand your frustration however this is not about accommodating a food choice like being vegan. This is about accommodating a child’s life threatening condition to which they have no control over. Providing a safe alternative is something most food allergy parents do, for the safety of the child, however it means the world to the parents and the child when people care enough about that child’s life to make sure there is no chance that child could die from a “birthday celebration” of their classmate. Here is a suggestion for you to accommodate a child with food allergies; send in non-food products for the celebration and leave the cupcakes at home to be celebrated with the family or send in stickers, pencils, crayons etc; all of which can be bought at the dollar store. If you have to send food, because your child really wants to do that for their special day, I understand that. In that case, maybe ask the teacher if there are snacks, that they know of, that are definitely safe. Give them a few days in advance, so they can ask the food allergy parents for a safe food idea, or to provide them with time to provide their child with a safe alternative so you can buy whatever you want. In the end, it is about the happiness and SAFETY of the students so please be understanding that this is not a life choice; it is a life threatening condition.


Thank you all for you questions!



Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*

Providing the proper accommodations for your child when they are at school can be quite frustrating. What you find to be completely reasonable, others (who do not have to go through the food allergy life) think is completely unreasonable. School staff tend to think a parent is overreacting most of the time; thinking we just want to put our child in a tiny little bubble and treat him like he is a porcelain doll. In reality, we are just trying to lower their chances of having a life changing allergic reaction.

Here are a few reasonable accommodations that school staff should NOT fight you on:

  • All school staff is to be trained to use the epi pen. (This includes cafeteria staff, teachers and office personnel)
  • Teachers will not use the allergen in classroom projects, behavior rewards or lesson plans.
  • *Student is permitted to carry epi pen. An additional epi pen will be kept in the main office.
  • **Student can sit with everyone else at lunch time, with cafeteria staff being informed of the allergy to avoid it going near student.
  • Notices will be sent home to classmates encouraging non-food celebrations (birthdays, holidays etc.) OR to inform them there is an allergic student and remind them of the foods that are NOT safe to bring in.

* If the student is allowed to self carry in the school district and if the parents feel comfortable with it.

** Ultimately up to the parents on the cafeteria conditions.

Here are a few negotiable accommodations that school staff and parents will need to find an agreement on:

  • allowing the child to have a safe snack bag in the classroom (most likely provided by parents)
  • notices sent home to the entire school notifying them of the allergy.
  • nut-free classroom
  • peanut-free zone at lunch time

You are the parent so you decide what is needed so your child can have a great educational experience and, most importantly, a safe experience at school.

If you have any questions about reasonable accommodations for your child, set up a meeting with the school’s principal and/or social worker. They can help you decide on what is absolutely needed. Remember to never let the school talk you out of an accommodation that you know your child needs.




Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*


I have received quite a bit of private messages regarding school activities and how to handle them when having food allergies. It’s normal for a parent to feel nervous, especially a parent of a food-allergic child. Will my child be safe? Will they know what to do if she has a reaction? Will they know what to avoid? These are just some of the questions that go through our minds on a daily basis.

When it comes to planning school events and activities, it make us even more nervous. Most of the time, food is a big part of school events. Every holiday there has to be a food related project or fundraiser. I know with my son’s school, Halloween is all about candy, Thanksgiving they have a “feast” at lunch time”, Christmas is about cookies, Valentines day is about candy, Easter is coloring eggs in class and of course candy; everything has to have food involved.

To ease the stress level, try to talk with the classroom teacher and explain your child’s allergies. If you don’t feel comfortable with your child doing “food projects”, ask if they can do non-food projects. It is best to research some non-food related projects off the internet to give the teacher some options when talking with him/her.

With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, here are some examples of non-food related school projects:

  • Teach an Irish step dance.
  • Decorate the room with shamrocks made from construction paper.
  • Plan a St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt that leads to a pot of gold filled with treasures,( pens, pencils, stickers and/or erasers).
  • Read about Irish history

For a pre-spring break activity:

  • Plan a nature walk to see plants re-awakening in
    the spring weather.
  • Decorate plastic eggs with paints and stickers.
  • Decorate flowerpots for parents and plant a flower or seed.
  • Have parents donate plants that children can plant in the school yard or at a housing project, senior center, or other community site.

Another option is to ask to volunteer in the classroom on special days where you know food will be an issue. Days such as the last day of school before spring break. That day is usually all about Easter related activities. Egg painting, candy and Easter egg hunts are just some of the activities that you typically see. If you are there, you can monitor anything your child is exposed to, to make sure it is safe.

Good communication is the key to a successful allergy-free school year. If you communication on a regular basis with the ones who will be around your child the most, they can prepare themselves properly. Also, when communication is good, they all can feel comfortable with calling you anytime of the school day, if there is a question or concern.

School is about learning. Make sure you teach your child to be safe and understand what is safe and what isn’t. When in doubt, throw it out!



Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*


Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies with PTO Mom.

If you have a child with food allergies, you have heard of a “504 Plan” but don’t really know much about it. Some school districts have even said they don’t do 504 plans in their district. Abiding by Section 504, which is a federal law, is not optional.

I will answer some questions that some readers have asked, referring to Section 504 in public schools.

Q: How do you get a 504? What exactly is a 504 plan? -Kelly (unknown last name)

A: A “504 Plan” is a type of written agreement between you and the school providing information on the accommodations you feel your child needs so that he/she can have the same opportunities at school as everyone else. Accommodations can include: nut-free classroom, nut-free lunch table, non-food celebrations…etc. A student is considered eligible for a “504 Plan” if they have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. According to Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act, if the impairment is episodic (the food allergic child is not always reacting just as an epileptic is not always seizing), it doesn’t dismiss eligibility if the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities when active. With a food allergic child, during anaphylaxis, the major life activity that would be limited would be breathing and eating.

To get a 504 plan established for your child, first you should contact the school’s principal, with a written request. You can find sample letters online by google searching: sample letter requesting accommodations under section 504 or sample letter for 504 plan for food allergies. In the letter I would request that if your child is denied for some reason, you would like a written denial with reason why sent to you. This way you have it in writing, just in case you need to fight it. Personally, I would physically hand it to a staff member at the school’s office so you know the school received it. I would also, if you feel it is necessary, to email a copy to the principal too. The standard time to wait to receive a call back is 5 business days, so if you have not received a call back to schedule a meeting within 5 business days, call the school to speak to the principal. I would also send in the same letter to the school nurse and even the school councilor/social worker.

Q: What sort of accommodations should I request for at my child’s 504 meeting? – Hanna J.

A: You can ask for any accommodations that you feel are reasonable requests to help manage your child’s food allergies in school. Accommodations that you can include are:

  • nut-free classroom
  • nut-free lunch table
  • non-food celebrations
  • allowing a “safe snack” bag in the classroom
  • allowing your child to carry an Epipen (or Auvi-Q) in school and on field trips
  • request to be the first parent called to volunteer for classroom parties and/or field trips
  • table cleaned after each lunch… etc.
  • request all staff and drivers are Epipen (and/or Auvi-Q) trained

Q: My son, who is 6, is allergic to peanuts (not tree nuts). His school is peanut free. Should I get a written management plan for him even though the school is peanut free? – Samantha W.

A: Absolutely! Even though the school is peanut free, you still may need some accommodations such as:

  • self carrying an Epipen or Auvi-Q
  • request all staff and drivers are Epipen (and/or Auvi-Q) trained
  • request to be the first parent called to volunteer for field trips

A “504 Plan” doesn’t necessarily need to be your first choice for a written management plan. If the school is willing to work with you, a simple written management plan would work for you. The difference is, a “504 Plan” is a legal document that, once agreed upon, makes everyone held accountable for their part. A written management plan, is more like an agreement between you and the school. If it isn’t signed, they can say it never existed, because there is not paperwork to prove their accountability. “504 Plans” are better in that if the school staff changes, this legal binding document doesn’t.

It is ultimately up to the parents to decide what is best for managing their child’s food allergies in school.


You can understand more about managing food allergies in a school setting by taking a look at this guide:

Safe At School And Ready To Learn: A Comprehensive Policy Guide for Protecting Students with Life-threatening Food Allergies.

Arizona Food Allergy Alliance, get a 504 plan

Food Allergies in School: What School Staff Need To Know


Resources if you have problems regarding your child’s food allergy management at school:

1-800-514-0301 is the ADA voice information line.

1-800-421-3481 is the U.S. Dept of Edu. Civil Rights Office (this is who you need to talk to about implementing and enforcing a 504 plan)



Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

 *All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advise.*