Recipe for change: Hays CISD finalizes food allergy plan

Some of the biggest food allergy worries come from peanuts, eggs, dairy, soy and wheat. Hays CISD is formulating a state-mandated food allergy management plan to address the issue. Food allergies affect approximately two children in every classroom. (Photo by Kim Hilsenbeck)

 

by KIM HILSENBECK

Hays CISD is finalizing a food allergy plan in response to the passage of Texas Senate Bill 27 in 2011.

Kim Pool, assistant superintendent, told the Board of Trustees at the June 18 regular meeting that the district still has a lot of work to do in advance of the August 1 deadline.

“There are a lot of forms, regulations and procedures; it’s very onerous,” Pool said.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that food allergies affect one in 13 children.

“That’s two in every classroom,” said Mary Jane Marchisotto, executive director of the Food Allergy Initiative, a nonprofit that supports research to find a cure for life-threatening food allergies.

In recent years, food allergies have become a growing public health issue. The FAI estimates more than 12 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, including nearly 10 percent of children under age 18.

According to the FAI, 90 percent of all reactions to foods are caused by eight major culprits: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. These ingredients are found in most of the commercially available food in this country.

An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system attacks a normally harmless food protein. For many, this causes the body to go into anaphylactic shock – a sudden, severe and potentially fatal reaction.

Hays CISD is developing a food allergy management plan that includes specialized training for employees, strategies to reduce risk of exposure, methods of requesting specific food allergy information from a parent or student and an annual review of the plan.

Risk of exposure is one of the more pressing issues, according to Ashley Haley, Director of Child Nutrition at Southwest Foodservice Excellence, the food vendor for Hays CISD.

The district’s plan must address everything from cross contamination in the kitchen to field trips, and children sharing food to snacks brought in by parents.

Food allergy stats:

• It’s estimated that 12-15 million Americans suffer from a severe food allergy

• The average classroom has two students with severe food allergies

• 30% of those children have multiple food allergies

• Eight allergens are responsible for 90% of all reactions

• Funding from the National Institutes of Health increased to $28 million in 2011 from $4 million in 2004

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