The Bismarck, North Dakota school district has implemented a new, district-wide food allergy policy for the coming year. Evy Monzelowsky, a nurse who works with the school district, has the number of students with severe food allergies has skyrocketed since she began working there nine years ago.

The new policy includes training for staff members and procedures for emergencies involving children with severe allergies. A food allergy safety handbook will be introduced this fall.

The policy stops short of promising peanut-free schools, as other school districts have done. The reasoning, explains Monzelowsky, is that “We’re not going to promise anyone a peanut-free school building and campus because that would be something unattainable and kind of a false promise.” Instead, the food policies will be driven by each student’s needs. “Not everyone with a nut allergy needs exactly the same accommodations … we want the physician to direct that from the beginning,” said Monzelowsky.

In the lower grades, classroom parents will be directed not to send snacks containing an allergen that affects one of their child’s classmates, along with a list of safe snacks. In the older grades, teachers are expected to help students with food allergies learn to read labels and understand the possibility of exposure. Snacks with nuts will be allowed, but there will be special areas where they may be eaten, and students will be shown how to clean the space thoroughly after eating to avoid exposing students with severe allergies. “Part of our job in schools is to … allow a more realistic environment for them (older students with severe food allergies),” Monzelowsky explained. The policy gives students more responsibility as they grow older so that “By the time they come to middle school, they’ll have a better way of handling real life.”

Students Affected By Food Allergies

Five-year-old student Gavin Kutzer is one Bismarck student with a severe tree nut allergy. His mother Angie has already met with school administrators and her child’s teachers to develop a safety plan. Thankfully, Gavin is aware of his allergy – a year ago, he had a scary experience involving cashews – and knows to turn down snacks that may have nuts. Angie explains “If you were to hand him a candy bar, he would say, ‘Mom, are there nuts in this?’ and he wouldn’t eat it until I OK’d it. He’s really good about it. He remembers how horrible it was.” While Kutzer still worries about sending her son to kindergarten, she says she’s happy with the district’s new policies.”I’m going to be nervous just because I’m always nervous for him, but I feel like his school has it covered now,” she commented.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}