It started out like any
other school pick up. My 5-year-old daughter climbed into the car and
excitedly began to recall her day. For the most part, it was all the usual
Until she told me about the
classmate who tried to force her to eat a strawberry at lunch, a food she is
I had to pull over to the side
of the road. I was so shaken; I was afraid I would get into an accident. Once I
had parked the car, I turned to my daughter and asked her to recall in detail
what had happened.
She said the student sitting
next to her at lunch had tried to shove a strawberry in her mouth. He knew she
is allergic and wanted to see what would happen. He thought it might make her
throw up. As she fought him off, she tried to explain it could do much worse.
She specifically told him
eating a strawberry could kill her. Yet he persisted. After several minutes of
physical struggle he gave up, and she did not ingest any of the fruit. She was
I asked if any adults had
intervened, and she said no. She had not called out for help. And in the din of
the busy, crowded cafeteria, no one had noticed the exchange.
Although I was anything but,
I calmly told my daughter if something like that ever happened again, she
should get away from the table as quickly as possible, run to the nearest adult
and ask for assistance.
I composed myself and
continued the drive home.
Many children and parents who do not live with food allergies simply don't understand how serious they can be.
As the room mother for my
daughter’s class, I know the kids. And I was certain the boy in question had
not been trying to intentionally harm my child. He simply wasn’t capable of it. My gut told me this was not a
case of food bullying, but a young child who no idea how serious his
Having chaperoned two class
field trips with his mother, I felt I knew her well enough to call and talk to
her about what had happened.
She was mortified, very
apologetic and demonstrated a strong understanding of the seriousness of the
situation. She told me her nephew has food allergies, and she has talked about the
issue with her son. It shocked her to learn what he had done.
She was also disturbed by
the fact her son did not stop when my daughter told him to. To her that was a serious
issue as well, and she said she planned to talk to him about boundaries and
The conversation was very
cordial and productive, and I’m glad I reached out to her personally.
When I communicated with the
school, I did not use the student’s name. I was not looking for administrators
to take disciplinary action. My focus was on the school taking the opportunity
to review lunchroom procedures and policies to ensure student safety. And
looking for ways to help increase awareness of this issue among the student
One in every 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy. That
breaks down to roughly two in every classroom. Many children and
parents who do not live with food allergies simply don't understand how serious
they can be. It’s not that they don’t care, or don’t feel the issue is important. Without a
personal connection, a need to know more, it’s not something they give much
thought to. And with everything parents today do have to focus on, I