Over the years, I have seen how school districts struggle with accommodating students with special dietary needs. The struggle is real – concerned parents, school nurses with medication, and school nutrition staff serving hundreds of students at a time. How do you create a safe process with all of these concerns?
The stress of following USDA regulations, staffing school kitchens, and ordering tasty products can be extreme (just to name a few), and this doesn’t take into account food allergies and intolerances. Most school nutrition professionals have the best intentions, but the following are the most common mistakes I see within school meal programs:
No one discusses student allergies, and each staff member within the school district is stuck in silos – critical information is not shared and schools are not gathering necessary information, such as what are appropriate food substitutes.
OVS is the Answer
For serving students with food allergies and intolerances, Offer versus Serve is not the answer. What I mean by this, school nutrition professionals believe that the menu is so large that the student with a specific allergy can just pick the components not containing their food allergen. This is not proper accommodation – school nutrition professionals need to make sure all five components are available to every student, every time (Pst: this makes a complete, reimbursable meal more likely to occur.).
Food Allergens are Menu MIA
Parents (and everyone else) prefer to be aware of issues and challenges. One situation could be prevented by simply indicating what food allergens are included in each meal. This way the parent/guardian can help their student pick the meal and get excited to eat the school meal.
Not including food allergy training for your school nutrition professionals can cause confusion and low self-confidence. Provide your staff with training and resources to be successful at their job – so they can be proud of their hard work. Set them up for success!
How can I Elevate Your Meals?
Looking for support with your school nutrition programs’ food allergies and intolerances? I offer direct support to manage your school district’s food allergies (and intolerances) as well as training for your staff. I would love the opportunity to reduce this burden so you can focus on feeding more students. Interested in learning more? Click Here.
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