Food Allergy Awareness Week

Food allergies impact about 15 million Americans according to Food Allergy Research and Education. The potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18. To break down that statistic, that means about two children in every class.

May 10-16 is Food Allergy Awareness Week and is dedicated to putting a spotlight on food allergies and anaphylaxis.

Stanley Clark School in South Bend is hard at work to keep all their students safe, especially those who have food allergies.

“It's something that is always in my brain, always in my consciousness. We are always checking labels. We wipe tables a lot and we ask that peanuts not be brought to school or any kind of nuts because there's often cross-allergies with nuts,” said Nurse Ellen Scherb.

The school does not have a cafeteria so the students eat in the classroom and the staff believes that is the best way to keep an eye out on students with different types of food allergies. Scherb said about five to eight percent of their students have a food allergy.

Pre-K through fourth grade students are not allowed to bring any type of peanut product to school. They have signs that are posted in the classroom designating "this is a peanut free/allergy aware classroom."

With age comes a greater understanding of the problem; therefore, the older grades are allowed to bring peanuts to school but students are very good about watching out for others Scherb said.

"I think the empathy level is greater when you respond to a peer that you've known, play with at recess, solve math problems with, or do an art project with. They become very empathetic and they learn and understand," she added.

Aashiyana Patel is an eighth grader and has had a peanut allergy since she was a child. 

“I always have to wash my hands and I have to ask everyone after lunch, like one of my friends, if I go near them, did you have nuts?”

Her sister, Eesha is a seventh grader and also has the same allergy.

“My dad loves peanut butter and he eats it every morning so he has his little shelf where he keeps his peanut butter,” said Eesha.

She said both of her parents like peanuts and they make sure to keep them away from her and her sister.

“I watch what I eat, and when someone brings stuff in for the class, if it's in a package I'll always read the label but if it's baked at home I usually don't eat it because it could have been around peanuts,” said Eesha.

All the staff is prepared to care for students if the situation arises.

All the teachers know how to use EpiPens.

"We can take field trips and the EpiPens and Benadryl always go with our students," Scherb said.
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