Parents of food allergic students are juggling a lot during back to school time this year. We connected with our trusted friends at Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) to hear the latest guidance and tips. Below is our conversation with KFA’s Kathy Przywara, who shares some expert advice on how parents & educators can work together to keep food allergic students healthy & safe.
COVID-19 Back to School Guidance
Enjoy Life: What can you tell us of the work you do surrounding the Back to School season?
Kathy: The coronavirus pandemic has led to many uncertainties this back-to-school season. Schools face many challenges about whether to reopen for in-person learning and how. For those schools that must reopen their campus to students and staff, we’ve created the COVID-19 and Asthma Toolkit for Schools with tips and strategies for reentry during the pandemic, including cleaning protocols that can benefit students with food allergies. We also developed guidance with our medical advisors for managing food allergies in schools during the pandemic and shared this information on our blog:
- COVID-19 Guidelines for Schools and the Impact on Kids With Food Allergies and Asthma
- Understanding How COVID-19 Could Affect School Health Care Plans for Food Allergies
- Hand-Washing Vs. Hand Sanitizer: Protecting Your Family From COVID-19 and Other Illnesses
Enjoy Life: How can our community increase awareness and education of food allergies in schools?
Kathy: Our School Planning Zone has many free resources for families and school staff to help with managing food allergies at school, including our newest edition, the “COVID-19 and Asthma Toolkit for Schools.” Parents and caregivers will find resources that can help children with food allergies stay safe and healthy at school, such as:
- Federal guidelines for food allergy management in schools and care centers
- School health care plans
- A list of potential food allergens in school crafts and supplies
- Section 504 plans for students with food allergies
- “The Essential School Planning Guide for Parents”
- Information on other topics like epinephrine auto-injectors, nutrition and food safety for students with food allergies, and information about working with school nurses to create a plan to keep children with food allergies safe at school
Enjoy Life: Any special advice for teachers who have students with food allergies?
Kathy: Teaching all students about food allergies can also help reduce the prevalence of food allergy bullying. Many children with food allergies are bullied because they are seen as different, and other children don’t understand the seriousness of food allergies. Encouraging safer celebrations can help other children understand that teasing or bullying classmates with food allergies can have serious consequences for everyone involved. Our Teal Classroom Kit has lesson plans, information and resources that teachers can use to raise food allergy awareness in their classroom.
During the pandemic, schools may be hosting mealtimes in the classrooms instead of the cafeteria in order to limit the number of children grouped in one space. It’s important to wipe down desks, wash hands, and read ingredient labels to protect students with food allergies.
About Kids with Food Allergies (KFA)
Enjoy Life: What is the mission of Kids with Food Allergies (KFA), and when was it founded?
Kathy: Kids With Food Allergies started in 2005, and in 2013, it merged with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the oldest and largest patient advocacy group dedicated to allergies and asthma. AAFA, founded in 1953, is dedicated to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease for people with asthma and allergies through support, advocacy, education and research.
Enjoy Life: What is your role at KFA?
Kathy: The KFA online support community has nearly 60,000 registered members and more than 275,000 followers on social media. As senior community director, I cultivate conversations and provide support to ensure people can find the information they are seeking. I also manage KFA’s extensive allergy-friendly recipe collection called Safe Eats®.
Enjoy Life: How does KFA work with partners like Enjoy Life?
Kathy: KFA is appreciative of partners like Enjoy Life Foods who help us host allergy-friendly events and support our educational outreach to families. For example, with support from Enjoy Life Foods, we have developed allergy-friendly recipe videos and blogs along with holiday resources to help families celebrate safely.
Enjoy Life: What is special about Enjoy Life to you?
Kathy: Enjoy Life has been a pioneer in providing allergy-friendly foods and catapulting them into the mainstream. Being able to easily find trusted safe foods is important to families who manage food allergies.
Kathy Przywara is senior community director at Kids with Food Allergies, a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. As stated on its website, KFA is “dedicated to saving lives and reducing the burden of food allergies through support, advocacy, education and research.” Learn more about Kathy’s work by contacting KFA.