Protecting Children's Lives . . . One Meal at a Time

Protecting Children's Lives . . . One Meal at a Time

By Grennan Sims, RD, LD
District Dietitian, Hickman Mills C-1 School District
Kansas City, MO

In school kitchens across America, nutrition professionals read and re-read hundreds of food labels. They practice and implement cross-contact prevention strategies as they prepare thousands of meals every day. They wash hands and change gloves between every new task. They check and recheck lists of students with noted food allergies and other medical conditions. Armed with knowledge, they battle every day to protect the lives and health of the children they serve. School nutrition professionals know you are depending on them! 

You can support the success of the school nutrition staff at your child’s school, and create peace of mind for yourself, with early and frequent communication about your child’s food allergy or other medical condition.

Tips to Ensure School Nutrition Staff Become Your Strongest Allies:

  • Inform the school nutrition department of your child’s food allergy before your child starts school. Spring is a good time to meet with your school nutrition department to start preparing for next school year.

  • Provide required documentation for meal accommodations specific to your school district and share the documents with the school food service director or registered dietitian. Have your child’s physician sign necessary forms. 

  • Provide written permission to the physician’s office for the school nutrition department and school nurse to discuss your child’s food allergy should questions arise.

  • Provide a list of safe foods your child likes and doesn’t like to eat and discuss the list with your school’s nutrition manager. If available and affordable, they will make every reasonable attempt to provide foods your child likes and can safely eat while dining in the school cafeteria. 

  • Obtain documentation for any changes in meal accommodations and provide a copy to the school nutrition department as soon as possible.

  • Supply the school with current phone numbers to contact you with questions or in case of an emergency. Provide additional emergency contacts if available.

  • Introduce your child to the school nutrition manager and staff! Everyone in the school kitchen should know what your child looks like and know his or her food allergy or medical condition.

School nutrition professionals throughout the nation share your goal of keeping your child safe while eating at school. Please help them accomplish this extremely important task by communicating directly with the school nutrition manager in your child’s school or with the district’s school nutrition director. Early and frequent communication strengthens their resolve to protect the lives of the children served in school. Arm them with knowledge and details…and those lunch ladies (and men) will take care of your child as if he/she was their own!