Accommodating Kids with Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
Food allergies and special diets are becoming more common among the population of typically developing kids and kids with special needs. An easily overlooked (and easily addressed) strategy for keeping children safe at church involves preventing and responding to an anaphylaxis reaction. A couple of years ago I was serving in a Vacation Bible School class, leading a room a 25 entering kindergarteners. That week we narrowly averted an life-and-death crisis when a child’s nanny dropped him off making no mention of the child’s severe peanut allergy. While the child’s allergy had been noted in the child’s online preregistration, there was no system in place to alert or remind our rotating volunteers of the child’s allergy.
Looking back, I know we had God’s hand of protection at a particular moment when one of our VBS volunteers remembered an earlier comment from the child and happened to notice him standing in the snack line. That volunteer quickly pulled the child out of line, inquired of the ingredients to the kitchen staff, and discovered that the day’s treat was unsafe. Since that experience, I’ve become a huge fan of electronic check-in systems that generate name tags. It is imperative that relevant information from a child’s initial registration, such a dietary restrictions, is communicated to the volunteers. Issuing system-generated name tags with a symbol to indicate a dietary restriction is one of the best ways to make sure rotating volunteers are aware of a child’s allergy. I’ve also seen churches post a visible sign inside the classroom with children’s names, their picture, and information about their individual food intolerances. While there may be some privacy concerns with this approach, most families are thrilled to see a concerted and public effort made to protect their child.