Classroom birthday parties and homemade cookies may soon be as rare as pencil boxes in the region’s elementary schools, as more districts move to ban outside food.
Parents have generally supported the ban, citing concern over food allergies and the difficulty of knowing for certain what ingredients baked goods brought in from home may contain.
“The `no food’ policy gives us consistency across the elementary schools, said Cathy Berni, a Milford parent. “The way it had been, some schools let you bring things in and others didn’t.”
Superintendent Elizabeth Feser said the principals of Milford’s nine elementary schools met over the summer and agreed to the ban. “We’ve seen an increase in serious food allergies among children, and this is a way to make sure that everyone is safe,” she said.
School districts have had “peanut-free” tables in the cafeteria for many years, said Genevieve Salvatore, spokeswoman for the state Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, but that measure alone isn’t enough.
“Little kids are notorious for not being overly concerned with personal cleanliness,” the Milford mother said. “They may eat their peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a separate table, but then they will touch doorknobs, bathroom faucets and drinking fountains, and it only takes a tiny bit of contact with peanuts to cause some kids serious problems.”
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic response that can cause difficulty breathing, a swollen throat and glands, hives and rashes and an unsafe drop in blood pressure. In rare cases it can lead to death. About 300,000 emergency room visits each year are due to allergic reactions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The most common food allergies among children are milk, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, shellfish and tree nuts, according to the FAAN website. Peanut allergies in particular are on the increase, according to FAAN.
Salvatore said while her son’s private school allows some outside food, she prefers that her son pick a treat from a snack box she leaves with his teacher.
“It’s very important, too, that kids not feel left out,” she said.
Bridgeport’s public schools have also banned homemade treats for classroom parties, said Korene Garcia, head of the Bridgeport PTA Council. “But what parents can do is bring in store-bought and packaged food, where all of the ingredients are listed,” she said.
Stratford schools took the same step several years ago, Superintendent Irene Cornish said.
“We acted out of concern; so many students have allergies,” Cornish said. “But we also want to encourage students to eat in a more healthy manner.”
Reach Frank Juliano at 203-520-6986 or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him at http://twitter.com/FrankJuliano or blog.connpost.com/juliano
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