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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let Them Eat (Purchased) Cake

In New Zealand there is a debate about baked goods in preschools. One major preschool company has mandated that baked goods have to be store bought. Another local preschool company indicated they allowed home baked goods and instead manage allergies by keeping a list of the food allergies for the children under its care.

Either policy could work well as long as there is discipline to following the guidelines. It might be argued that the list method is preferable in some ways due to the fact that it promotes awareness of the individual kid's allergies while not outlawing home baking.

The bottom line is that it comes down to trust and logistics. Does a school feel it can manage the list of allergies effectively and does it trust parents of non-allergic kids to be cognizant of these allergies when preparing baked goods for the class. I see both sides of the coin.

A great quote in the article comes from 'nutritionalist' Bronwen King. She said that "it was a shame that home baking was not allowed. Ms King feels 'the demise of home cooking means that people lose cooking skills and those are really important when it comes to nutrition. I know centres have to err on the side of caution but I do wonder if we are going too far when it comes to allergies.' Ms King said parents should also consider other ways of celebrating their children's birthdays".

This is thought provoking. Many people find baking to be the most enjoyable form of cooking. Is the removal of baked goods from schools going to result in a culinary and cultural erosion? It is a fair question. When I was a kid food allergy was not an issue, at least not visibly. We had bake sales every week for one thing or another and I never remember a classmate having an allergic reaction.

Alas, the times have changed. Ms King wondered if we have gone too far. Given the rapid acceleration in the prevalence of food allergy and the increasing number of kids with anaphylaxis we cannot be too safe when working with the youngest, and most vulnerable kids. So, no, we have not gone too far but we could perhaps do a better job of getting to the end result.

I challenge dietitians to come up with healthy alternatives to the birthday cake. Kids love fruit, for example, and a there would be a multitude of fun things to do with fruit to celebrate the birthdays in a given week or month. If the cake theme is preferred, what if once a month a local baker came in with ingredients to show the kids how she makes an (allergy free) cake? Parents could participate in both of these events. Either of these would be fun, safe and ultimately shows parents how to make healthier food.

Outright bans often generate animosity and kids would likely prefer 'funner' ways to manage food allergy. 2007 will be the first year our daughter goes to preschool so this is an imminent issue for us.


Mikaela said...

How are you dealing with finding a preschool for your daughter? I am in the same process for my son and have been completely dismayed at the ignorance many preschool teachers and coordinators have concerning food allergies. One preschool simply denied my son admission based soley on his allergy. Another, which claims to be peanut free do not enforce the policy. Yet another school feebly attempted to become their definition of peanut free but asked that I never question the teachers or double-check the snacks that other parents provide. They said "We just don't want to offend any of the other parents by telling them we cannot serve their snacks." What are parents to do?

Mrs NoPeanuts said...

I have been really lucky to date that I am self-employed and work from home. We have a nanny who takes care of our daughter and gets her back and forth to all of her activities. I haven't had to deal with a daycare situation at all.

That being said, she has just turned two and pre-school days are fast approaching. To be honest, I've been avoiding looking for a pre-school for the exact reasons you outline in your post. I know it is going to be difficult and time consuming to find a school that will meet our needs.

It's strange isn't it that although awareness of allergic children in schools has certainly increased in recent years the same doesn't hold true for acceptance and support.

Dave said...

We are also in the same situation with regard to pre-school, one thing that was helpful for us was through a local allergy support group. We were able to speak with parents there who already had children in pre-school.