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Accommodating Kids with Allergies and Dietary Restrictions

February 12, 2012

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.

In case you missed it,  the First Look Blog ran a post I wrote on Accommodating Kids with Allergies and Dietary Restrictions.   This post has a number of best practices and definitions associated with common food allergies and environmental sensitivities.~ Amy Fenton Lee
  1. I tried leaving this comment on the other blog, but I couldn’t get it to work. Another great post, Amy.

    I am fine with churches serving snacks. We always kept it simple. We eliminated peanut products as snacks years ago (when my wife and I were volunteers years ago, we had the first child at our church that had a peanut allergy).

    We’ve found that parents who have kids with food allergies typically make the leaders aware. And we also have a check-in system that asks for and alerts the teachers (via notes on their nametags) allergies.

    With our church paging system (an LED screen in the worship center), we had a special code that alerted medical professionals if we needed them. We ID’d and spoke with these medical professionals, and reminded them about our process about once per year.

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