PARENTS

Back To School: How To Deal With Food Allergies In The Cafeteria

09/08/2011 03:19 pm ET | Updated Nov 08, 2011

Karen McEwan's school cafeteria has an "allergy table" with a "peanut free" sign on it.

The Portland, Ore., kindergarten teacher reports that school food services are very helpful these days with rising concerns about food allergies.

All you have to do is ask about special foods.

"But realize you need a note from a doctor for accommodations," she says. "You can't just tell the cafeteria worker that your child is allergic to non-organic, caged and processed foods."

Amie Lake, a school librarian in Salem, Ore., agrees.

"This is a case where you and your child are your own best advocate," she advises. "If there is a serious allergy such as peanuts, let your school administrator know right away. For mild allergies such as dairy, talk with your child about the choices offered by school lunches. Even at the elementary schools there is more than one entree offered plus a salad bar."

An increasing numbers of schools are becoming sensitive to food allergies in children, Amy Wickstrom, a family therapist, blogger and mother, of two reveals.

"For example, some campuses are now "nut-free,'" she says.

Another big nutritional issue may be occasions with class treats, McEwan says.

"If there are cupcakes or goodies brought by a child or family for celebrations, how can your child participate? Ask if there is something packaged you can send, so that your child is included," she says.

Above all, McEwan says, if it's not a health issue, don't be too extreme about what your child can -- and cannot -- eat.

"Don't make us tell stories about what a wacky parent you are," she pleads. "Please."

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