Lack of food allergy awareness neglects students’ needs

Amelia Pacht, Staff Writer

Schreiber students suffer from food allergies and while there is a peanut-free table in the commons and some gluten-free goodies in the vending machines, the cafeteria food is far from accommodating to students with special dietary needs.

Schreiber’s tolerant environment seems to promote a sense of awareness about a variety of topics, from the Social Studies Honor Society enlightening the student body about living conditions in Africa, to the Gay Straight Alliance teaching acceptance and friendship.

One of the largest aspects of non-discrimination being ignored is food allergy awareness.

The Nutrition Club, or the Health Nuts, no longer exists.  Even when it was in session, it spoke about healthy food choices more than food allergies.

While putting peanut free, dairy free and gluten free options in the cafeteria will boost student awareness, it would not fix all of the problems.  Cross-contamination is a major risk for students with food allergies.

Proper food preparation to avoid such cross-contamination requires more than just different food, the kitchen would have to invest in a second set of measuring utensils, bowls, cutting boards, serving implements and anything else foods may touch.

While it would still be better to have these food options, preparation would have to be considered more heavily.  People with airborne food allergies are also in need of some recognition.

Although that problem is harder to solve, students shouldn’t have to feel at risk to a reaction at all times when they should be able to focus on their studies.

“Being allergic to wheat is difficult to deal with because you see it all around you in school,” said sophomore Lauren Whitman.  “You have to learn to live with it and focus on what you can eat instead of what you cant.”

Most with such airborne allergies are even forced to carry an Epipen with them at all times for good measure.

Also, if they want a table that is insured to be, for example, peanut free, they are isolated in the commons.

Although nothing to this end is in the works, it seems that the best solution to this problem is to have one whole lunchroom reserved for allergy friendly food in terms of airborne allergen exposure.

As a student with a dietary restriction, Celiac Disease, a genetic intolerance to gluten, I understand how pressing the issue of food allergy awareness is.

Allergen friendly food integrated into cafeteria menus would be a helpful step in that direction, but may be logistically harder than it sounds.