Monday, April 26, 2010
Peanut Allergy and "The Brown Bag Lunch"
This is the time of year when many elementary school kids are beginning to have lots of outdoor activities such as Track and Field Day, outdoor field trips and other events that require the dreaded "brown bag lunch." I say "dreaded" because we know what that means for the other kids: "Peanut Butter City." Obviously, PB & J is the ideal portable lunch food for warm weather because it won't spoil in the hot sun. Still, brown bag lunches always make me uneasy because of the risk that peanut butter will be everywhere and also because--what do we pack for our kids?
Many peanut- or nut-allergic kids won't touch peanut butter substitutes because of the smell and texture--too much like peanut butter. So what do you do?
Well, for one thing, see if you can send your child with an insulated bag in which you can place one of those little freezer packs to keep things cold. I know that teachers don't want to be stuck with non-disposable lunch bags, but in our case it may be the best way. Talk to your child's teacher about your concerns. You can get some terrific, eco-friendly portable lunch gear at Litter Free Lunch--incidentally, this great business was created by another food allergy mom!
In any case, you're going to have to get creative. Here are some tips on how to ensure a safe and yummy lunch for your child on event day.
Make use of frozen juice boxes or water bottles. These time-tested little gems will help keep your child's lunch cold in a brown bag and will usually thaw by lunchtime on a warm day.
Think outside the lunch box. Because of the ease with which many non-peanut butter sandwich fillings can spoil, try skipping the traditional sandwich on "event" day. Instead, pack fresh fruit or veggie sticks, a couple of Enjoy Life Carmel Apple Bars or nut-free granola, crackers and/or banana bread or zucchini bread. My daughter's favorite is pasta salad (pasta, non-refrigerated vinagrette and cherry tomatoes).
Ask for nut-free seating. Whether it's a special picnic table spot or a separate, peanut-free picnic blanket (my daughter's school used this approach), the abundance of peanut butter in bag lunches requires attention to seating for the allergic kids. Kids should also bring some type of place mat for picnic tables--who knows what was eaten there before.
Don't forget the wet wipes! Since soap and water is not always available at an outdoor activity, pack enough containers of Wet Ones or some other wipe for the entire class to use after lunch. Your child's teacher can help you with this, since most will appreciate the efforts at general hygiene in addition to helping kids remove peanut butter from their hands and faces.
Readers, how have you coped with this portable lunch problem?