For Lynne Sorrentino’s child, and other children with food allergies, every meal is an important decision.
“It’s a life skill,” Sorrentino said of her child’s ability to choose foods that are safe for him to eat.
But he’s not learning that skill at school.
Since 2011 Pleasantdale Elementary District 107 schools have eliminated treats from birthday celebrations, snacks from classroom parties and concessions from afterschool events. Sorrentino of Burr Ridge was one of several parents of children with allergies who told the School Board Oct. 16 that such restrictions go too far and that revisions are needed.
The board will revisit the issue, asking the schools’ principals and Superintendent Mark Fredisdorf to take input from the Oct. 16 meeting and turn it into a new policy.
Catherine Gleason of Burr Ridge is the parent of a child with allergies. She said eliminating food from all events isn’t fair to the vast majority of children who do not have food allergies. According to district statistics, about 5 percent of Pleasantdale students have food allergies in any given enrollment year.
School nurse Lisa Penrod had a different take.
“This is something we can do to help them with their health,” said Penrod.
She said treats at classroom parties are not healthy.
“They are happy with games and crafts,” she said.
Pleasantdale Elementary Principal Matt Vandercar agreed.
“I love the policy,” said Vandercar, who said the elimination of treats from holiday parties has turned the focus to games and crafts and minimized distractions.
Board member Mark Mirabile said he favors erring on the side of caution.
“No child has ever died from not getting a cupcake or a candy bar,” he said.
Several board members said they would consider changing the policy to allow afterschool concessions at the middle school, and possibly allowing a cooking club to form at the school.
“We need to educate, not eliminate,” board member Gina Scaletta-Nelson said.
A revised food allergy management plan will be considered at the board’s Nov. 20 meeting.