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Pottsgrove To Act On Food Allergies Concerns

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Parental concerns about “inconsistencies” between Pottsgrove School District buildings, and in some cases even between classrooms, in dealing with student food allergies have captured the attention of both the Board of School Directors’ Policy Committee members and district administrators, committee chairman and board President Matt Alexander reported during Tuesday’s (May 9, 2017) directors’ meeting.

Those worries have prompted the district to begin examining how it uniformly prevents, responds to, and handles student food allergies in the future, Superintendent Dr. William Shirk added.

One in 13 students in the United States has a food allergy, according to the non-profit Food Allergy and Research Network, and eight common allergens account for 90 percent of all reactions in kids, The Nemours Foundation reports. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts (such as walnuts and cashews), fish, and shellfish (such as shrimp). Food allergy reactions can be serious, and occasionally life-threatening.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports “there is no cure for food allergies,” and that “strict avoidance of food allergen(s) is the only way to prevent a reaction.” The center also acknowledges “it is not always easy or possible to avoid certain foods,” and recommends that “staff in schools and early care and education programs should develop plans for preventing an allergic reaction and responding to a food allergy emergency.”

The parent, who initially raised the issue with administrators, described for committee members during their April 25 meeting problems her family – and particularly one allergy-sensitive student – encountered while attending school. She alleged differences existed between faculty and staff employees within a building, and from school to school, over what foods could be offered to whom, as well as possible responses to allergic attacks, Alexander said.

The superintendent Tuesday agreed any potential differences needed a unified solution. “It’s caused us to get the ball rolling” on addressing food allergies, he said. The district is looking at its neighbors to determine what relevant policies they use, has begun discussing the matter with its food service vendors and suppliers, and also is assembling a group of teachers and staff to offer ideas, Shirk noted.

Shirk said he hopes he can present recommendations to the policy committee, and subsequently to the entire school board, by early fall for implementation during the 2017-2018 academic year.

Alexander lauded the parent’s willingness to address the committee, and said he “appreciate(s) getting things pointed out when we fall short.” Her concerns “were heard, and action’s being taken,” he added, and encouraged others to attend committee meetings to raise matters that might otherwise get overlooked. “The committees are often where the real work gets done.”

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ May 9 meeting):

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