How schools keep track of allergies in the lunchroom

There is controversy surrounding the new “Peter Rabbit” movie after moviegoers say they were making fun of food allergies.

In the movie, which was released this weekend, the character Mister McGregor is allergic to blackberries, and in one scene, the rabbits fling blackberries at him and he is forced to use an EpiPen.

That story left us wondering about real-life allergy problems, and how school staffers help keep young children away from items they’re allergic to.

Gabrielle Dawkins spoke to the staff at Gray Elementary School about the extra precautions they take to keep children safe.

Around 450 students rely on the hot meals that come out of the kitchen at Gray Elementary School. “The children here are my kids,” says cafeteria manager Luann Bloodworth. “I love my kids here.”

Bloodworth says when it comes to allergies, they have it covered. “Once you’re here for a while, you know which children are allergic to what. You know that one is allergic to peanut butter, that one is allergic to apples, that one is allergic to strawberries,” says Bloodworth.

Since she started here four years ago, she can’t think of one time where a child had an allergic reaction to something that they ate, and it’s because of the system they have in place.

“If they have an allergy of some kind, a big green screen will pop up and it will say ‘allergies’ and it will tell you what the allergies are,” says Bloodworth.

The cafeteria worker has to hit “OK” to proceed. Nutrition Director, Roslyn Foster, says staff must undergo a 6- to 10-hour training every year, even though she says the students are the first ones to tell you they can’t eat something.

“Children will come to the line and tell us, ‘I can’t have or can’t eat that.’ So they, too, are the first line of defense,” says Foster.

The school is required to post the lunch menu. Foster says it helps parents understand what items their child can eat.

“They can see what we are serving and therefore we are able to help the child decide what they can and cannot have,” says Foster.

Bloodworth says she makes the needed accommodations so that every student can enjoy a nutritious meal.

“This is my second home and I love it,” says Bloodworth. It doesn’t matter if I’m feeling bad. I’m going to be here.”

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, about 6 million children under the age of 18 have food allergies.

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