September 27, 2020

BY ALLANAH PINHORN

The days of spreading some peanut butter and jam on a few slices of bread and sending it in a paper bag with your child to school are long gone. Most of us know someone with a peanut allergy, and all of us are well aware of the nut ban that exists in most elementary schools nowadays. But this month an even more extreme measure was handed down from on high at a Kitchener Catholic school: kindergartners are no longer allowed to bring food items containing dairy or eggs.
The parents of the affected boy’s classmates were even given a list of allowable foods: soy yogurt and puddings, vegan margarines and substitutes, whole grain breads, a small list of allowed deli meats and specific brands of snacks such as cookies. Most were organic, more expensive and only able to be bought from specific stores.
They must be joking.
Anaphylaxis is serious, deadly serious, and we sympathize with parents of children suffering from potentially fatal allergies. Many of us even have them ourselves, but children – growing children – can’t really be expected to eat practically vegan lunches, can they?
Peanut butter is sticky, it’s oily and it can readily be transferred by little fingers. It is also a far more common allergy. But being anaphylactic to eggs and dairy is almost unheard of and to impose what amounts to a new lifestyle onto 20 or more students due to one little boy seems like a knee-jerk reaction to an otherwise manageable problem.
Even the boy’s father agrees. In a statement to the Waterloo Region Record earlier this month he said he had no intention of creating a problem for other parents. He simply wanted his child’s classroom to be a safe haven, meaning students shouldn’t be eating lunch in there.
Brilliant. Simple.
But this wasn’t the school board’s reaction. Because their policy is that kindergartners must eat separate from the rest of the school, they issued a ban instead.
What they need to do is change that policy instead of instilling new ones. Have the children eat outside their classroom, heck, even have the allergic child eat in an allergy-safe room with a lunch buddy or two.
The two sides should work together to come up with a compromise that works for all. Or soon our students will be eating in solitary confinement.

The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.