Recent increase in peanut allergy awareness

Lena Kogan, Staff Writer

Recently, the school has taken action to create more regulated eating environments for students with peanut allergies.

One of the precautionary measures is the creation of peanut-free areas throughout the school.  Almost every classroom has now been installed with a designated “peanut-free desk” marked with either red tape or a special sign.

The decision to focus on peanut allergies was not part of a new plan, but instead a continuation of previous policies.

“There is no new initiative,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick.  “As we have in the past, we have created peanut free areas to accommodate a student with a severe allergy.”

However, some students argue that the precautionary measures are not necessary.  Senior Matt Brandes suffers from peanut allergies.

“It doesn’t really affect me that much. My friends know about it so they don’t eat it around me and in the large size of the cafeteria as long as I’m not in very close proximity to, say, a PB&J, I’m fine,” said Brandes.

An increase in the consumption of peanuts became a problem in smaller areas such as computer labs and classrooms, which have been a major factor in the push for a safer school environment.

“I have occasionally had to leave smaller areas like the Writing Center because a few people had peanuts, but that is rare,” said Brandes.

As a result, eating outside of the cafeteria and the Student Commons is prohibited to avoid potential contact with peanuts in other parts of the school.  However, this rule is seldom enforced and some students are complaining that prohibiting all foods is unreasonable.

“I think this is a good idea, obviously with good intentions, but with the atrium closed, and the Commons closed during AP week, it’s not always easy to find a place to eat,” said junior Andrew Costenoble.  “Also, I don’t know how effective the enforcement of this rule is: lots of students still eat in the computer lab.”

Many students are not aware of the new initiative so its enforcement may be hindered.  Although tables are specially marked, many students eat at these tables regardless of their lunch, simply because of the lack of cafeteria seating.

“It’s important to be respectful to peanut allergies but I don’t think people really pay attention to the signs,” said junior Haley Sambursky.  “Even if people aren’t eating peanuts or peanut butter at the peanut-free table, there could be people eating peanut butter just a couple feet away, so what’s the point?”

Nevertheless, the cafeteria’s large size decreases the risk of direct exposure to peanuts and even the menu has been altered in adherence to the initiative.   The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are no longer made with peanut butter: instead, they are made with soy butter, which despite its similarity in taste is a much less common allergen.

The HSA Health Committee continues to address the problem.

“The peanut free zones are a great way to keep students with severe peanut allergies out of harm’s way: I don’t think people have a problem avoiding peanuts when it’s something serious, even as just a safety measure,” said freshman Diana Brennan.