Many schools are implementing a strict “no food sharing” policy in an effort to prevent food allergy emergencies. One student was recently suspended for sharing his lunch with a friend and while “no food sharing” seems to make sense as a general rule, many students are finding very justifiable reasons to bend the rules or outright break them.
But here’s what many students don’t think about when making these decisions:
1. Cross Contact
First and most important is the way each food is prepared or packed for each student’s lunch. For example, a student may handle bread, cheese, peanut butter or other allergens while eating breakfast or preparing a lunch, then reach into the fridge to grab an apple for the lunchbox or backpack without first washing hands. This simple bit of cross contact may seem harmless to the individual handling the food, but could have life-threatening results for the child who unknowingly consumes that apple when it is shared with him by a friend at lunch.
2. New Allergies
But what if neither of the students sharing food have allergies and there is no prior history of allergies in their families? In 25% of food allergy reactions that occur at school, the student had not been previously diagnosed. Food allergies in children are on the rise and children do not have to have other family members with food allergies to develop them on their own. If a reaction does occur at school, tracing all food eaten, including it’s preparation may be of importance. This information is simply easier to gather when food is not shared.
3. A Consistent, Safe, Learning Environment
Whatever the policy, educators have put it in place to ensure as safe and distraction-free learning environment as possible. If a rule is bent or broken because the student just thought it made sense to do so, other students will begin making decisions on their own to break rules as well. Since each students’ knowledge, maturity level, and decision making skills vary, those who are following suit of the first are likely to take additional risks. If students believe there is a strong case for breaking a rule, they should be encouraged to discuss the situation or concern with a member of the school staff or administration.