Food Allergies in the Classroom
Resources to help teachers and other educators create and maintain a safe and healthy classroom environment.
If you haven’t had a student with a food allergy in your classroom yet, odds are you soon will. For reasons that aren’t completely understood, the incidence of food allergies is increasing. One in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom, has a food allergy.
Use this toolkit to help your students with food allergies be safe and included at school.
Teachers can follow these recommendations to minimize the risk of accidental ingestion or exposure to food allergens in the classroom.
Students, both with allergies and without, can follow these recommendations to help their friends and classmates feel supported and safe.
Children have unique ways of describing their experiences and perceptions, and allergic reactions are no exception. This tip sheet provides examples of the words a child might use to describe a reaction.
Educators can take this online training course to learn more about anaphylaxis, its causes and the proper emergency response.
Educators can take this online training course to learn more about managing food allergies in schools and how to best protect and keep students included.
Teachers can use this education program to help children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies.
Follow these recommendations to minimize the risk of accidental ingestion or exposure to food allergens in the classroom.
Many schools and districts have emergency plans for when children and staff must shelter in place. (These rare events are also sometimes called “lockdowns.”) Such plans must account for the special needs of children with food allergies—especially when putting together an emergency food supply.
Field trips are a highlight of the school year, but chaperones must take extra precautions to keep children with food allergies safe. Follow these tips for a successful event.
Cleaning tables and other surfaces to remove food allergens can make homes, schools and cafeterias safer for children with food allergies. Learn more about these sanitation methods.
Food treats are an easy and convenient reward for good performance or behavior, but they can be a problem for children with food allergies. Choose nonfood items instead to help create a healthy, safe and inclusive environment.
FARE recommends the following best practices that can help teachers minimize the risk of accidental ingestion or exposure to allergens in the classroom.
- Keep the classroom food-free. School administrators (in schools that have a separate cafeteria) may find that restricting food from the classroom altogether is the easiest and safest way to manage classroom activities.
- Restrict identified allergens from the classroom. If school officials choose to allow snacks or food in the classroom for meals, parties or other activities, it must be managed with care. With 1 in 13 of children having at least one food allergy, anyone serving food to children needs to be aware of food allergies and the potential for a life-threatening allergic reaction.
- Find safe and inclusive ways to celebrate. There are many ways to celebrate that do not involve food. Birthdays can be celebrated with crafts, games, or extra recess. Treat bags can be filled with tiny toys, no-homework passes, or other non-edible trinkets.
- Foods provided for class-wide consumption must be selected with extreme care. Teachers should be aware of their student’s food allergies and special dietary needs. With parental permission, they can use this information to meticulously plan for a few “safe” foods that can be served during classroom celebrations. Extra care must be taken so that foods are approved and double-checked and that children eating in the classroom are monitored at all times.
- Avoid the use of food in the curriculum. Skin contact or ingestion of food allergens used in classroom projects are a frequent cause of allergic reactions. Avoid the use of foods in art, crafts, science and other classroom projects. Even used food containers (such as egg cartons) may pose a risk that is easily avoided.
- Avoid using food as a reward. A classroom movie, extra recess, a fun guest speaker or field trip can motivate students without endangering or excluding those with food allergies. If food is being used as a classroom reward, avoid ordering food from restaurants as trace amounts of allergens can endanger allergic students.
- Keep epinephrine accessible. Reactions are never planned. Make sure that epinephrine (EpiPen® or Adrenaclick®) is always within reach. Know the signs of anaphylaxis and enact emergency care procedures in the event of an allergic reaction. Learn more about each of these devices here.