December 9, 2018

By ALYSHA MILLER

There is no doubt school can be an uncomfortable environment. Due dates, tests, in-class assignments and exams aren’t exactly welcomed. However, some students have more on their plate to worry about – with what’s on their plate being their biggest concern.

Health Canada suggests that about 3-4 per cent of adults in westernized countries have a food allergy of some sort. The number is slightly higher in children, who have their surroundings more closely monitored and tailored to their needs.

Places such as Conestoga and other college campuses are less guarded, however, which can make them into an allergen minefield for those avoiding things such as peanuts or sesame seeds.

Disability Services and Health Services at the Doon campus are unsure as to whether Conestoga has any rules regarding the use of peanut butter. Rules tend to vary from classroom to classroom depending on whether any students present are allergic to anything.

The cafeterias in the school, run by Chartwells Canada, do supply pre-packaged foods that contain nuts, but said the other foods they sell are relatively low-risk. They added that the facilities in which they produce foods with nuts are kept separate from the rest of their products to help ensure the safety of their customers. Signs in the cafeterias do state, however, that anything bought does run the risk of having come into contact with peanuts or other nuts.

“If I were still allergic to peanuts I’d probably feel safe at school,” said Corey Bruulsema, a second–year mechanical systems engineering student at Conestoga College who outgrew his allergy. “I’d like people to respect the fact that I don’t want peanuts shoved in my face, but I wouldn’t want people to go out of their way to be completely peanut-free.

“I’m often more of a keep-to-myself kind of person, I wouldn’t want to have to tell people all the time that I’m allergic to peanuts, and have them change the way they do things.”

Students at other post-secondary institutions also have to deal with food allergies.

“I haven’t been frightened yet,” said Jamie Wigle, a first-year biochemistry student living in residence at the University of Guelph. He keeps an EpiPen taped above his room door in case anything should happen. “I’m not allergic to peanuts though, that’d be scarier. I’m allergic to pistachios and cashews which are usually way too expensive for students to be buying a lot.”

Others are often quick to make compromise for those with food allergies. “Teachers ask us not to bring peanut butter to lectures where a student is allergic and everyone’s really co-operative,” said Wesley Chase, a first-year marine biology student at the University of Guelph. “If we know someone has an allergy we’re all more careful,” he added, talking about his dorm. “We still eat peanut butter though if it’s just us. I have … well, had a jar in my fridge.”

Bruulsema said, “In elementary schools, sure, there should be laws there, because kids don’t know how to be responsible for themselves yet. But not in colleges or universities.”

He felt by the time students go to college or university they tend to know what and where to eat as far as food allergies go, as well as how to keep fellow students with allergies safe.

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