I know that there’s an awful lot of extra things teachers need to do to watch over their kids during the school day. In addition to instruction, teachers pay attention to physical and emotional health and socialization. And, I hate to add to that list, but I think teachers need to learn to read food labels.
As we all know, food allergies are on the rise. So much so, that in my son’s first grade class of 18 children, at least 6 kids have mild to severe food allergies not including his teacher who also is allergic to gluten.
In an effort to become more food allergy friendly, my son’s school began requiring parents to bring in ingredient lists for all food brought in from outside. Whether it’s homemade or store-bought, all treats to be shared with other children (as in class parties, birthday celebrations, etc) need to be accompanied with a list of ingredient. A good start, but who’s there to police it? Parents are generally not given the “heads-up” on the food being served at these parties. Therefore, it becomes the teacher’s job to read labels and ensure the treat’s safety for each child. Imagine the job that is for my son’s class. And, we have a food allergy-savvy teacher!
And, it’s not all about class parties. Take the case of the bird feeders (See Peanut-Free Bird Feeders: Lesson Learned) that our Hebrew school assured us were completely nut-free. The administration sure could’ve used some lessons in reading labels! Without the unprompted forethought from my son’s teacher, we would have assuredly had some problems.
Something about this system needs to change. We need to either keep the party offerings to whole, healthy foods (and communicate with food allergic parents) or we need to teach the teachers how to read ingredient labels. Or both. It’s not hard to know what to look for when reading ingredient lists (we all learned! See Food Allergies and Food Labels: What You Need to Know). Plus, it could prove to be a valuable line of defense against a potential reaction.